Pentagon calls Turkey's military action in Syria a 'distraction'
Iran Press TV
Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:51PM
The US military has called on Turkey to halt its military action in Syria's northwestern region of Afrin against Kurdish fighters and focus on combating Daesh terrorists.
"Turkey is an ally and we're going to work with them, but this current issue offensive is a distraction and we have to focus as allies on the mission at hand and that's defeating ISIS [Daesh]," chief Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.
NATO member Turkey last week launched "Operation Olive Branch," a new air and ground operation targeting the Afrin region, to oust the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as a terrorist organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
However, the United States considers the YPG the most effective force fighting Daesh on the ground in Syria and has provided weapons, training and air support to the group.
"We carefully track those weapons that are provided to them, we ensure that they, to the maximum extent possible, don't fall into the wrong hands and we're continuing discussions with the Turks on this issue," Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters. He spoke alongside White.
"Turkey has a legitimate concern about its internal security. Our focus is ensuring that those internal security forces are able to hold the areas that have been liberated from ISIS. It is a force that is focused solely on internal security it is not a border force," White said, referring to the YPG.
McKenzie said the US is working to accommodate Turkey's national security interests, adding that American and Turkish military commanders have discussed the possibility of creating a "secure zone" along the border with Syria.
"Clearly we continue to talk to the Turks about the possibility of a secure zone, whatever you want to call it," McKenzie said.
"We've looked at that for a couple of years in various different iterations and no final decision on it yet. Our military commanders are still talking so I would say it's a concept that's out there ... it's simply an idea that's floating around right now," he added.
"There's certainly areas that we disagree with. But we think we have an opportunity to perhaps come together and those discussions are continuing," he continued.
'End support for YPG or risk confrontation'
Meanwhile, Turkey called on the US to halt its support for YPG fighters or risk confronting Turkish forces on the ground in Syria, according to Reuters.
"Those who support the terrorist organization will become a target in this battle," Deputy Turkish Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Thursday.
"The United States needs to review its soldiers and elements giving support to terrorists on the ground in such a way as to avoid a confrontation with Turkey," Bozdag told broadcaster A Haber.
In a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, Trump cautioned his Turkish counterpart to avoid any measures in Syria that "might risk conflict" between the two countries.
According to a readout of the call with President Erdogan, Trump called on him "to deescalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties and increases to displaced persons and refugees."
"He urged Turkey to exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces," the statement added.
Erdogan, for his part, asserted that Turkish forces in Syria are aiming to get rid of "terrorist elements" and protect Turkey's national security.
Meanwhile, a Turkish source rejected the White House version of the conversation between Trump and Erdogan.
"President Trump did not share any 'concerns about escalating violence' with regard to the ongoing military operation in Afrin," the source said.
"The two leaders' discussion of Operation Olive Branch was limited to an exchange of views."
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