Intensifying clashes in northern Syria between Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels, who have received military assistance from America, and the U.S.-allied Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), are a testament to the quagmire of perpetual chaos the Obama administration has worked itself into in the Middle East.
The U.S. allies FSA and YPG have found themselves on opposite sides of an ongoing Turkish military operation near the border town of Jarablus in northern Syria’s Aleppo province since the rebels captured the town from the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) last week during an offensive backed by the Obama administration.
The YPG has since been advancing into northern Syria territory controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). YPG fighters are the armed wing of the PYD, which controls large swathes of northern Syria.
The Turkish government has long accused the Kurdish groups of being the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a group that has been deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and other NATO members.
Although U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has acknowledged that the YPG and the PYD are linked to the Turkey-based communist terrorist group PKK, the U.S. State Department and the White House insist that the northern Syrian Kurdish groups, considered to be America’s most effective allies against ISIS on the ground, are not terrorists.
The Turkish government has repeatedly urged the Obama administration to stop providing military support to the Syrian Kurdish groups. Turkey has renewed its demand.
The Associated Press (AP) reports:
Turkey’s presidential spokesman has called on the U.S. to “revise” its policy of supporting Kurdish forces battling Turkish troops in Syria after Ankara’s incursion last week into the war-torn state.
The comments by Ibrahim Kalin published on Tuesday by Sabah the pro-government Daily Sabah came a day after the U.S. urged Turkish troops and Kurdish forces in northern Syria to halt their fighting…
On Monday, the Obama administration called on Turkey and the Kurdish YPG fighters to end their fighting.
Nevertheless, AP notes that “Turkey’s president vowed to press ahead with the military operation until the IS [Islamic State] and Kurdish Syrian fighters no longer pose a security threat to Ankara.”
It was the first U.S. criticism of its NATO ally since it launched a U.S.-backed incursion into northern Syria to help Syrian rebels seize the town of Jarablus from the Islamic State group… It puts Washington in the difficult spot of having to choose between two allies, and it is likely to divert resources from the fight against IS.
Reuters points out that the battles in northern Syria continue.
The news outlet reports:
Three Turkish soldiers were wounded on Tuesday after their tank came under fire west of the Syrian border town of Jarablus…
Operations against militants in the area were continuing, the Turkish military said in a statement, without specifying who had fired on the tank. Turkey’s military incursion into Syria, launched last Wednesday, is targeting both Islamic State militants and Kurdish militia fighters.
Secretary Carter has urged Turkey that rather than combating the SDF, it should “stay focused on fighting ISIS.”
“We’ve called on both sides not to fight one another, not to fight each other,” the Pentagon chief told reporters.
The clashes are of “deep concern,” declared Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook, adding that they were not coordinated with U.S. forces, “and we do not support them.”
“Uncoordinated operations and maneuvers only provide room for ISIL to find sanctuary and continue planning attacks against Turkey, the SDF, the United States, and our partners around the world,” he also noted.
In response, Turkey reportedly insisted that Kurdish forces “immediately” withdraw east of the Euphrates River or face more attacks by Turkish forces.
“No one has the right to tell Turkey to ‘fight this terror organization but don’t fight that terror organization,'” proclaimed Omer Celik, a Turkish cabinet minister.
Turkish operations will continue “until terror organizations such as Daesh [ISIS], the PKK and its Syrian arm, the YPG, cease to be threats for our citizens,” added Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Turkish military said Turkey-backed Syrian rebels — a mix of various Islamist rebel factions — have cleared 10 more villages of “terrorist entities” and now control of an area totaling some 400 square kilometers (about 150 square miles) south and west of Jarablus…
Syrian opposition activists have said at least 35 civilians were killed in northern Syria in the Turkish-led operation so far. Turkey denied any civilians had been hit. A Turkish soldier was killed Saturday by a Kurdish rocket attack, the first such fatality in Turkey’s ground offensive.