Washington says observation posts in place on Syria border despite Turkey's opposition
The Pentagon has announced that American observation posts in northern Syria, meant to prevent altercations between the Turkish army and US-supported YPG, have been erected, despite Ankara’s request to scrap the move.
The Turkish army since 2016 has already launched two military operations in Syria, the last of which saw Ankara-backed Syrian rebels take the border city of Afrin from the YPG in March.
The United States has long been complained that tensions between Turkey and the SDF, of which the YPG is the backbone, have at times slowed down progress on fighting the ISIL.
Ankara deems the YPG as an offshoot of the PKK, which is listed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
"At the direction of Secretary (James) Mattis, the US established observation posts in the northeast Syria border region to address the security concerns of our NATO ally Turkey," Department of Defense spokesman Rob Manning said Dec. 11.
Mattis announced in November that the US military was in the process of installing the observation posts.
The measure aimed to reassure the YPG, which Washington sees as the spearhead of the international fight against ISIL.
"We take Turkish security concerns seriously and we are committed to coordinating our efforts with Turkey to bring stability to northeastern Syria," Manning added.
After Turkey shelled northern Syria in late October the SDF announced the suspension of their operations against ISIL for several days, to the embarrassment of Washington.
During a meeting with US Special Envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, in Ankara on Dec. 7, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had asked that Washington scrap the observation posts.
Akar also called for the US to end its cooperation with the YPG.
Turkey is also skeptical about a U.S. plan to train around 40,000 locals in northeastern Syria, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesman Ömer Çelik said Dec. 11.
Speaking to reporters in capital Ankara, Çelik expressed concern over a reported U.S. plan to train 35,000 to 40,000 people in northeastern Syria.
“We do not see them as well-intentioned approaches."
He added that the move will be seen by Turkey as "lending fresh support to terror elements in Syria."