The recent visit to Ankara by US CENTCOM Cmdr. Lloyd Austin shifted focus to Turkey's role in the upcoming operation to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State (IS). Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had previously gone on record as saying, “Turkey will not be a direct party to the heated conflict in Iraq or Syria. We will provide support for Mosul but will not become a party to clashes.”
Turkey’s military security concerns eased somewhat after the evacuation operation at the Tomb of Suleiman Shah in Syria in February. Since then, Turkey has raised its anti-IS profile. Some of the steps Ankara has recently taken include the early March visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Saudi Arabia, an agreement reached Feb. 19 with the United States to train and equip Syrian rebel forces in Turkey, delivery of military equipment to the Iraqi army, reinforcement of border security to impede IS recruits from crossing into Syria and an upgrading of discussions with the international coalition to higher echelons. Ankara has also noticeably toned down its rhetoric drawing attention to Aleppo and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Gen. Austin, who will command the major sweep operation in Mosul, slated to begin in April or May, must have been pleased with Turkey's attitude adjustment and the possibility of closer cooperation.