Turkey does not place a high priority on fighting ISIL and as a result foreign fighters are able to travel through the country into Syria, US intelligence chief James Clapper said on Thursday.
Asked if he was optimistic that Turkey would take a more active role in the war against ISIL, Clapper told senators: “No, I’m not. I think Turkey has other priorities and other interests.”
Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Turkish government was more concerned with Kurdish opposition and the country’s economy, and that “public opinion polls show in Turkey they don’t see ISIL as a primary threat”.
The effect of Turkey’s approach was to allow a “permissive” climate for foreign recruits heading to Syria to take arms for the extremist group, the director of national intelligence said.
“And of course, the consequence of that is a permissive environment … because of their laws and the ability of people to travel through Turkey en route to Syria.”
“So somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 per cent of those foreign fighters find their way to Syria through Turkey,” he added.
Clapper said some other governments in the Middle East have been reluctant to join the US-led coalition against ISIL because of Washington’s reluctance to directly confront the state in Syria.
But the “brutal savagery” of ISIL terrorists, including the beheadings of hostages and the immolation of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, “have had a galvanizing effect on opinion in the Mideast region,” he said.
There was more willingness to cooperate with the United States in the war effort, with some countries now sharing intelligence with Washington, he added.