ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish special forces have started training local Iraqi and Syrian groups to fight the jihadist Islamic State group of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), officials here said.

"The training mission has taken off with a view to reinforce Iraqi groups that volunteer to fight ISIS," a senior Turkish diplomat said. "But Turkey's contribution to the [western] coalition's fight against ISIS will not be limited to training. Logistical support will be given [as well]."

A military official said that the special forcmaes, also known as the "Maroon Berets," were training Kurdish peshmerga "Peshmerga" forces in the Iraqi cities of Arbil. He said the training program also involves ethnic Turkmen forces in Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city, as well as in a discreet location inside Syria.

Recently, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq announced that at least 16,000 Iraqi troops had been trained over the past four months to retake Mosul from ISIS. The jihadists Islamic State fighters since last summer have captured large swathes of land in both Syria and Iraq since last summer.

The military official said that the training program was designed to enhance asymmetrical warfare capabilities of the anti-ISIS forces. It involves asymmetrical fighting, sabotage, communications and intelligence gathering.

The training program aims to augment a looming military offensive against ISIS to retake Mosul.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in early March that Turkey was willing to support a possible operation to reclaim Mosul from ISIS, but it will avoid any direct combat unless it is attacked on its own soil.

Neither the Turkish diplomat nor the military official could confirm whether the Turkish support would also include sending arms and other military equipment to the anti-ISIS coalition.

Burak Ege Bekdil is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News. He has written for Hurriyet Daily News, and worked as Ankara bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He is also a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Middle East Quarterly and Gatestone Institute.

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