Islamic State feeling the pinch in key territory along Turkish border

The Islamic State is facing a surprising three-way pincer movement against its positions in a key stretch of territory along the Syrian border with Turkey, threatening its hold over the land, including the highly symbolic town of Dabiq.

Islamic State's English language magazine is named after Dabiq and the group is said to believe the town will be the place of a key battle between its forces and "crusader" armies. The war myth feeds into the group's overall apocalyptical world view.

The complex Syrian civil war has many sides battling each other and rarely do they come together in any form to stage attacks against a common enemy.

But, in what seems like an uncoordinated offensive, government troops, rebels and Kurdish fighters are all attacking Islamic State in the so-called Azaz-Jarablous zone, which stretches for 98-kilometres along the Turkish border.

The zone has been at the heart of talks between Turkey, a NATO-member, and the United States and is likely to come up again as Vice President Joe Biden visits Istanbul.

US Secretary of State John Kerry in November said his country would work with Turkey to oust Islamic State from the area and pledged Ankara would seal the border.

The Turkish government was under fire, accused of turning a blind eye to cross border smuggling and only half-heartedly battling Islamic State, instead focusing on Kurdish militants.

Complicating matters further, the key Kurdish fighters in Syria - the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) - are the main US ally on the ground pushing back Islamic State.

Turkey, however, has declared that it will never see the YPG as "legitimate," alleging it has links to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The YPG advance against Islamic State from the east has angered Turkey.

Meanwhile, Ankara is backing ethnic Turkmen rebels, who are allied with hardline Islamic militants, fighting Islamic State in the west. Some of this groups are also attacking the YPG.

From the south, the Syrian government, which is backed by Russia- also at odds with Turkey – is pushing north.

Islamic State's finances are meanwhile in a mess and the group has reportedly had to cut salaries of its fighters at this crucial time.

Last update: Tue, 28/06/2016 - 17:25
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