US trying to avoid a ‘Turkey-Kurdish conflict’ in Syria, general says
The United States is taking steps to try to avoid a conflict between Turkey and U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, which Turkey views as terrorists, in Syria, the top U.S. commander overseeing American troops in the Middle East said on March 9, acknowledging the risk of a clash existed.
Asked by influential Senator John McCain whether he shared the view about the risk of a conflict between the two U.S. allies, Army General Joseph Votel said: “I do, Mr. Chairman. And to that end, we are trying to take actions to prevent that from occurring.”
Turkey regards the SDF as a cover for the Kurdish YPG militia, branded as a terrorist organization by Ankara.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, has made two recent trips to Turkey to sort out the impasse.
The United States turned up the heat on the Islamic State of Rıqa and the Levant (ISIL) on March 9, sending an additional 400 U.S. troops into Syria to support an offensive to retake Raqqa, the jihadists’ de facto capital.
The administration also announced a high level meeting on March 22 of the 68 countries in the U.S.-led coalition to discuss plans to accelerate ISIL’s defeat.
The announcements in Washington come as U.S.-backed forces tighten their hold around jihadist bastions in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul and in Raqqa.
As a coalition of Arab-Kurdish fighters are closing in on Raqa, maneuvering to isolate the city from the rest of Syria’s ISIL-controlled territory, the Pentagon wants to make sure that the city of 300,000, a onetime propaganda showcase for ISIL, falls.
Among the additional U.S. troops deployed in Syria is a Marine Corp artillery battery equipped with 155mm howitzers, according to the Pentagon.
But the movement comes as President Donald Trump weighs options for an intensified anti-ISIL campaign.