Turkish, US military chiefs discuss Raqqa, Mosul operations
ANKARAThe United States’ top soldier, Gen. Joseph Dunford, and Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar discussed joint strategies against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during a surprise visit by the former to Ankara on Nov. 6, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said in a statement.
The two top soldiers discussed the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) recent launch of an operation to capture ISIL’s capital, Raqqa, and the ongoing Mosul operation in Iraq, the military said.
They also discussed the actions of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), in Syria and Iraq and the risks of sectarian clashes in the region, along with the removal of the PYD/YPG from Manbij, according to the statement.
The military said Akar also voiced Ankara’s disturbance over the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen’s activities in the country during the meeting. Gülen is accused of orchestrating the July 15 coup attempt.
The Nov. 6 meeting, which was the second recent meeting between the two army chiefs, came at the request of the U.S. side. They held extensive talks in Washington D.C. last month.
Dunford’s visit came soon after the SDF began a long-anticipated operation to capture Raqqa from the jihadist group.
The SDF is dominated by YPG militia, which Ankara says is an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Ankara has stressed that the Kurds’ main militia should not be involved at all in the Raqqa offensive if the U.S. wants Turkey’s contribution.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter earlier said he was looking for ways that Turkey could take part in the Raqqa operation and praised its intervention in Syria so far in taking territory from ISIL.
Turkey’s own intervention in Syria in support of rebel groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) banner sought to drive ISIL from positions it had used to shell Turkish towns, and also to stop YPG expansion there.
When Turkey intervened in Syria in August, the SDF had just captured Manbij, leaving it poised to close the 70-kilometer gap separating two Kurdish cantons along the Turkish frontier, something Ankara has said it is absolutely determined to prevent.
Turkey has repeatedly insisted that the YPG and PYD should quit Manbij, something that both they and the U.S. have said has already happened.