By Sorwar Alam
ANKARA (AA) - The U.S. does not believe a military operation by Turkey in Syria’s northern city of Afrin would serve Ankara’s interests regarding the security of its southern border.
“We do not believe a military operation…in the north and northeast of Syria serves the cause of regional stability, Syrian stability, or indeed Turkish concerns about the security of their border,” a senior State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity told reporters Friday in a conference call.
The official said the U.S. continued to engage with Turkey over Ankara’s concerns about its border with Syria and noted they did not believe any military action against Afrin or other regions where the SDF is present would be fruitful.
Responding to questions on whether a "border security force" was being formed based on elements of the PYD/PKK terrorist organization under the umbrella of the SDF, the official said the "language about a border security force was a misstatement. We are working, the Department of Defense is working, on providing assistance, development and training to internal security forces, internal security elements drawn from all of the ethnic populations of the north and northeast of Syria… And there is certainly no threat against Turkey.
“We have made at senior levels as clear as possible to the Turkish government that nothing we are doing with respect to security elements in northeast, northern Syria should be viewed as a threat or a challenge to Turkey or to its border,” said the official.
“We believe what we are doing shouldn’t be seen as challenging or threatening. It is not a reconstruction or a sustainment of those heavy forces required to fight” against Daesh in Raqqah, the official added.
Stating that the fight in Raqqah is over, the official noted that the nature of the military relationship with the SDF had changed to some extent and “the nature of security and security needs in northern and northeastern Syria have changed now to local and internal purposes”.
“We fully understand Turkish concerns about the PKK. It’s a terrorist organization. We appreciate that. But we need to stabilize the north, and we very much hope that Turkey works with us and the international community in ways that we think advance Turkish interests.”
On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert urged Turkey not to take any action in northern Syria, calling on Ankara to remain focused on the fight against the Daesh terrorist group.
Tensions between Ankara and Washington have risen in recent days following an announcement Sunday by Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, officially known as Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve, that they plan to establish a 30,000-strong border security force in Syria with the SDF -- a U.S.-backed group drawn up largely of PYD/PKK terrorist elements.
Following strong objections from Ankara, both the Pentagon and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stressed Wednesday that the U.S. was not creating an "army" or "border force" per se.
The Pentagon also said Thursday that the U.S. has not been working on forming a "border security force" but was instead establishing a "stabilization” and “hold force" in northern Syria.
The PKK/PYD is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist group, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
Since the mid-1980s, the PKK has waged a wide-ranging terror campaign against the Turkish state in which an estimated 40,000 people have been killed.