By Kasim İleri
WASHINGTON (AA) – A Syrian group dominated by the terrorist PYD/PKK has repositioned some of its forces in northern Syria amid a Turkish operation in the Afrin region, the Pentagon admitted Tuesday in an email to Anadolu Agency.
“We are aware the SDF has repositioned some forces in response to recent tensions, however this was not under coalition direction,” Defense Department spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine Galloway said.
An assertion in the statement, as in recent U.S. statements, is the U.S.-led coalition does not back terrorist PYD/PKK elements in Afrin.
The U.S. has long resisted Turkish criticisms of its support for the SDF, led by the terrorist PYD/PKK, contending that the group is a “reliable ally” in its fight against Daesh.
Turkey has pointed to the PYD/PKK being the Syrian offshoot of the terrorist PKK, that has taken 40,000 lives in a 30-year terrorist campaign in Turkey.
Last week, the Pentagon warned that units that leave its counter-Daesh operation to go and fight alongside the PYD/PKK in Afrin would lose U.S. support.
Reports of the U.S.-backed and PYD/PKK-led SDF repositioning forces amid the Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch has the potential to spark criticism from Ankara.
Rankine-Galloway acknowledged Turkey’s security concerns. “We are closely monitoring the situation in northwestern Syria. Turkey clearly has legitimate concerns and they have a need for secure borders”
He tried to emphasize that “the presence of US forces is helping to calm the talk about violence which could de-stabilize the situation."
But he dismissed the SDF statements, and went on to say, “The U.S. partnership with the SDF is limited in scope to operations to defeat ISIS,” using another name for Daesh.
Askied where the SDF forces have been repositioned, he said: "I don't speak for the SDF.”
He then called on all parties to “remain focused on defeating ISIS [Daesh], de-escalating and resolving the Syrian conflict, and protecting innocent civilians.”
- Praise for alleged suicide bomber
Separately, the U.S.-backed SDF on Monday issued a statement that praised Avesta Khabour, a YPJ fighter who allegedly carried out a suicide attack on Turkish-backed forces in Afrin.
The YPJ is the female terrorist armed wing of the PYD/PKK.
The statement was undersigned “the SDF Afrin Command.”
Rankine-Galloway tried to distance the Washington’s supply to the SDF to the attack. "We are aware of reports that a Kurdish female fighter died in combat in the Afrin region. We have no information at this time that would substantiate that this individual was the recipient of any Coalition military training. The armed Kurdish groups in Afrin are not defeat-ISIS [Daesh] Coalition partners.”
His appears to go to great lengths to avoided labeling Khabour a suicide bomber, instead option for the benign “fighter died in combat”, in spite of reports of the alleged suicide bombing in U.S. media and in the SDF statement.
The operation in Afrin aside, Washington is also facing a quandary regarding the nearby Syrian city of Manbij after Ankara vowed Turkish-led forces would proceed there to rid it of PYD/PKK terrorism after the Afrin operation.
Ankara has accused the U.S. of failing to keep its promise to ensure the withdrawal of the SDF's PYD/PKK elements from Manbij.
In response to Turkey’s call for the withdrawal of troops, Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, said Monday that Manbij is "not something the U.S. is looking into.”
Rankine-Galloway’s remarks toed that line, and also stressed the role of the Manbij Military Council, in an apparent effort to skirt the issue.
“The Coalition's only official relationship in Manbij is with the Manbij Military Council, a majority-Arab force aligned with the SDF and created to fight ISIS [Daesh]," he said. "Our larger partnership with the SDF is limited to operations and activities that they undertake to defeat ISIS [Daesh].”
Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20, along with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), to clear PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.
As it entered its 11th day, the Turkish General Staff announced at least 649 PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists had been "neutralized" since the operation began.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from oppression and cruelty of terrorists.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military has also said only terrorist targets are being destroyed and the "utmost care" is taken to not harm any civilians.
Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012, when the Bashar al-Assad regime left the city to the terror group without putting up a fight.