Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook / credit: US DOD

29/08/2016 - 14:14 0
Clashes Between Turkish Army and Kurds in Northern Syria "Unacceptable": Pentagon


US officials have commented on Turkey's incursion into Rojava/Northern Syria alongside Free Syrian Army militants six days after the military operation began.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said clashes between Turkey, its FSA militants and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters was "unacceptable" as there were no longer Islamic State militants in the area.

“While we are closing monitoring reports of clashes south of Jarablus – where ISIL is no longer located – between the Turkish armed forces, some opposition groups and units that are affiliated with the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), we want to make clear that we find these clashes unacceptable,” Cook said in an email statement on Sunday.

“This is an already crowded battle space. Accordingly, we are calling on all armed actors to stand down immediately and take appropriate measures to deconflict,” he added.

Meanwhile Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (IS) Brett McGurk, in a series of tweets, added to the Pentagon statement saying: "the U.S. was not involved in these activities (clashes in non-IS areas), they were not coordinated with U.S. forces, and we do not support them. The US is actively engaged to facilitate such deconfliction and unity of focus on ISIL, which remains a lethal and common threat."

Turkey launched the "Operation Euphrates Shield' with 1,500 FSA militants from several Islamist factions, 20 tanks and several hundred Turkish soldiers on 24 August with the intention of degrading ISIS and "preventing the PYD party from uniting Kurdish cantons," as said by Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik.

However there has been very little fighting if any against Islamic State, with almost all of the operation targeting YPG, SDF and local military councils in areas already liberated from IS. At least 40 civilians have been killed and 50 wounded in Turkish artillery fire and air strikes on the villages of Jubb al-Kussa and Al-Amarne, both in Jarablus.

Turkey says it is targeting the People's Protection Units (YPG), which it claims is the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) and thus a "terrorist organisation". However Turkish officials have been open in their intentions about the operation, with Turkey PM Binali Yildirim saying, "We will never allow a Kurdish entity from forming on our southern border. We see it is a threat to our national security."

President Erdogan also weighed into the discussion as late as yesterday by saying, "We are going to continue (operation in Syria) until we eradicate the PYD (Democratic Union Party). We are supporting FSA in every way."

Meanwhile one of the groups in the Turkey backed FSA, the Sultan Murad Battalions said on August 28 that their forces intended to capture Manbij from SDF fighters.

YPG spokesman Redur Xelil on August 29 denied reports of Kurdish troop movements into Manbij, saying "there are absolutely no YPG military reinforcements being sent towards Manbij." Turkey has claimed the presence of YPG fighters in Manbij and other areas west of the Euphrates as a pretext to the military operation.