Is Turkey finally ready to aid military strikes against ISIS?

Editor’s Note: Gönül Tol is the founding director of The Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies and an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Institute for Middle East Studies. The views expressed in this commentary are entirely those of the author.

Story highlights

Turkey could play a key role in the U.S.-led military assault against ISIS, writes Gönül Tol

Ankara has the second-largest army in NATO and hosts an American airbase, he says

But Turkey prefers to play a secondary role, he writes

Tol: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled a possible change in policy

CNN  — 

Turkey, a key U.S. ally and a NATO member that borders the territory captured by ISIS, which now calls itself the Islamic State, in Syria and Iraq, could play a critical role in the U.S.-led military assault against the jihadist group.

Ankara has the second-largest army in NATO and hosts an American airbase. Turkish forces could participate in the U.S.-led bombing, or Ankara could allow the United States to use the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey to stage the attacks.

READ: Airstrikes: What you need to know

But Turkey prefers to play a secondary role. Citing its concern over the fate of 49 hostages who were captured by ISIS when the group seized Mosul in June, it limited its role to stemming the flow of foreign fighters, tightening border security, and cracking down on ISIS’s oil-smuggling networks.