US not concerned with Turkey shutting down PYD
WASHINGTON – Anadolu AgencyThe United States is not concerned with Turkey’s efforts to keep terror groups from posing a threat to its border, U.S. commander of the anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coalition said on Dec. 14.
“I do believe that’s one of the Turks’ reasons for going as deep as al-Bab, as they desire to keep Kurdish groups separated – those to the east of al-Bab in the Manbij area and then those to the west in the Afrin area,” Gen. Stephen Townsend said, referring to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“I don’t see that as a great concern for us,” Townsend said during a press briefing via videoconference from Baghdad.
Turkey regards the PYD and YPG as terror organizations, due to their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The U.S., on the other hand, regard the YPG and PYD as effective partners in their fight against ISIL in Syria.
The U.S. and the European Union designate the PKK as terror organizations, too.
The PYD and YPG are trying to combine their self-declared cantons in Kobane in northeast along the Turkish border with the one in Afrin, northwest corner of Syria, an idea that Turkey has long opposed.
Townsend said it is also important to take al-Bab, 32 kilometers south to the Turkish border, because it is the largest municipal area between Aleppo and Raqqa, which is under the jihadists’ control.
Turkey launched the Euphrates Shield operation across its Syria border in late August to improve security, support coalition forces, and eliminate the terror threat along the border using Free Syrian Army fighters backed by Turkish armor, artillery, and jets.
Ankara has said it wanted to build a buffer zone in the area between Jarablus and Azaz in northwest Syria, along a border stretch that is 98 kilometers long and nearly 40 kilometers) deep down to al-Bab.
Responding to a question on ISIL’s capture of the ancient city of Palmyra from Syrian government forces, Townsend said it was a battle for territory waged by Russians and the Syrian government and that the coalition would expect them to make a counterattack against the group.
He added that if the Russians fail to address the ISIL presence in the historic city, the coalition would strike them soon because it believes that some of the equipment that ISIL captured there might include air defense systems.
“I’m not really exactly sure ... what they’ve seized there. We believe it includes some armored vehicles and various guns and other heavy weapons, possibly some air defense equipment,” Reuters quoted Townsend as saying. “Basically anything they seized poses a threat to the coalition but we can manage those threats and we will.”
ISIL decimated Palmyra before losing it to government forces in March.