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UPDATE: Commander visits troops after takeover of Jarabulus

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Turkish Special Forces Commander Gen. Zekai Aksakalli visited troops on the ground after the takeover of the Syrian border city of Jarabulus from the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in a rebel operation that was backed by the US and Turkey.

Nine more tanks entered Syria on Thursday, and a Turkish official confirmed that the military now has around 20 tanks to support Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels in Jarabulus. Aksakalli inspected Turkish special forces who backed the rebel operation with joint US-Turkey air cover and support.

US Vice President Joe Biden expressed support for the Turkish incursion into Jarabulus, saying that Turkey will remain in Syria as long as it takes to ward off the ISIL threat.

To assuage Turkey’s concerns, the US ordered Kurdish forces out of Manbij, avoiding a possible clash between Turkish forces and the Kurdish militia that otherwise might put the US in a delicate position given American ground and air support for the Kurds.

“Turkey is determined for Syria to retain its territorial integrity and will take matters into its own hands if required to protect that territorial unity,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted in The New York Times as saying.

How long Turkish forces will remain in Syria remains to be seen as Turkish officials say the troops will be there as long as they are needed to protect Turkish national security and to eliminate ISIL elements across the border and inside Syria.

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