U.S. troops to develop patrols in Syria amid stress with Turkey

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The Pentagon is getting ready to renew full floor operations alongside Kurdish companions in northern Syria, officers stated Tuesday, a transfer that dangers additional inflaming relations with NATO ally Turkey, which blames the Kurds for a lethal bombing in Istanbul final month and has threatened a floor assault in retaliation.

U.S. commanders restricted such actions after Turkey unleashed air and artillery strikes on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which in tandem with American army personnel have saved a test on the Islamic State’s lingering presence within the area. The 2 teams have carried out solely restricted joint actions in current days, to conduct safety patrols and transport provides between bases, officers stated.

Three U.S. officers, talking on the situation of anonymity to debate a delicate problem, stated it’s doable Turkey may observe by way of on its menace to ship floor forces into northern Syria this month, doubtlessly jeopardizing the Individuals there and upending what has been a comparatively secure state of affairs for the previous a number of years.

“We are concerned with any action that may jeopardize the hard-fought gains made in security and stability in Syria,” Col. Joseph Buccino, a U.S. army spokesman, stated in an announcement. “Further, we’re concerned for the security of the SDF, our vetted, recognized and reliable partners in a place where we’ve withdrawn most troops.”

The Turkish Embassy in Washington didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Turkey accuses Kurdish militants in lethal Istanbul bombing

About 900 U.S. troops are deployed to Syria, most of them sharing bases with SDF personnel within the north. These accomplice forces, Buccino stated, are integral “to the ongoing effort to keep an ISIS resurgence at bay.” Amongst its tasks, the SDF oversees the al-Hol refugee camp, the place tens of 1000’s of individuals — a lot of them the households of Islamic State militants — dwell in squalid situations, unable to return to their dwelling international locations. SDF raids on the ability have rounded up a whole bunch of suspected ISIS operatives this yr, U.S. officers say.

Turkey considers America’s allies a subset of the Kurdistan Staff’ Celebration, which Washington and Ankara have designated a terrorist group, and Turkey’s leaders have accused the US of complicity within the Istanbul bombing. The explosion ripped by way of a crowded space of town Nov. 13, killing a minimum of six and wounding dozens of others. Turkish officers arrested a lady after the bombing and claimed she had been despatched from northern Syria to hold out the assault.

The SDF’s prime commander, Mazloum Abdi, denied his group was concerned.

Turkey has adopted by way of with a sequence of cross-border strikes, together with one late final month that Buccino stated got here inside 150 yards of American personnel.

Farhad Shami, a spokesman for the SDF, stated Tuesday that it had acquired indications {that a} restricted incursion by Turkish or Turkish-backed forces may happen. “The Syrian Democratic Forces have no choice but to protect their people, the region, and fight to the end,” he stated.

Shami accused Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of looking for to rally nationalist-minded voters forward of a doubtlessly robust reelection marketing campaign early subsequent yr.

“If the offensive happens,” he added, “it will cause the displacement of more than 5 million people who live here, and ISIS will be active again.”

Mazloum, the SDF commander, wrote in a Washington Put up opinion piece over the weekend that he believes the airstrike in proximity to U.S. personnel “was an attempt on my life,” saying it occurred close to town of Hasakah. He claimed that Turkey had assassinated a number of of his colleagues this yr. He supplied condolences to Turkey for the Istanbul bombing, known as for peace talks between the Turks and Kurds, and stated that previous Turkish incursions into northern Syria have allowed pockets of the Islamic State to bounce again after the group’s near-total defeat in 2019.

“We call on the international community to immediately take concrete steps to prevent a Turkish invasion and to promote a political solution to the Kurdish conflict based on democracy, coexistence and equal rights,” Mazloum wrote. “The existence of our people and the security of the region depend on it.”

U.S. requires de-escalation as Turkey threatens floor assault into Syria

The state of affairs marks the most recent chapter in an eight-year balancing act for U.S. officers, who, regardless of objections from Turkey, turned to the SDF to counter the Islamic State after floundering in earlier makes an attempt to discover a dependable accomplice in Syria.

Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke final week to Hulusi Akar, the Turkish protection minister, partly to boost concern in regards to the airstrikes that “directly threatened the safety of U.S. personnel,” the Pentagon stated final week in an announcement.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Workers, Gen. Mark A. Milley, spoke Nov. 23 along with his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Yasar Guler. By then, Turkish forces had launched greater than 100 air, drone and artillery strikes into northern Syria.

A White Home official, talking on the situation of anonymity underneath floor guidelines set by the Biden administration, stated that the US continues to “make clear both privately and publicly that we strongly oppose military action, including a land incursion,” by Turkey in Syria.

“The United States did not approve Turkey’s recent strikes in Syria,” the official stated, including that whereas “Turkey has legitimate security concerns related to terrorism, we do not believe that military escalation that destabilizes the situation in Syria will resolve those concerns.”

Bradley Bowman, a international coverage and army analyst on the Basis for Protection of Democracies in Washington, stated that with out the SDF, the Islamic State would possible nonetheless maintain broad swaths of territory, or that the U.S. army would have suffered 1000’s of casualties making an attempt to root the militants out by itself.

“If we want to keep the caliphate defeated and keep a lid on terrorist organizations, we need people on the ground, and that’s the SDF,” he stated. “It’s in our interest to continue to support them and have them be successful, and Turkey needs to understand that.”

Bowman stated that whereas some U.S. army officers proceed to have good relationships with their Turkish counterparts, Turkey’s habits in different methods has not been emblematic of different NATO allies. He cited Ankara’s buy of the S-400 missile system from Russia and its reluctance to permit Sweden and Finland to hitch the army alliance.

“I just continue to see them doing problematic things,” Bowman stated. The administration, he stated, should make the case to Ankara that it must do extra to stay an “ally in good standing.”

Loveluck reported from Baghdad.

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