Pentagon backtracks on Syria border force

Pentagon backtracks on Syria border force

Spokesman says border protection force meant for Jordan and Lebanon

By Safvan Allahverdi

WASHINGTON (AA) – The Pentagon backpedaled Tuesday on the purpose of some funding under its 2019 fiscal year budget, saying it would be spent on securing the border between Jordan and Lebanon instead of the Iraq-Syria border.

Earlier in the day, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway told Anadolu Agency that the U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition would establish security on the Iraq-Syria border, including spending $250 million to train and equip the PYD/PKK-led SDF as a border protection force.

But Rankine-Galloway later changed his statement.

"In the second paragraph of my note below, my response was written in such a way that inadvertently implied that $250 million was being requested for U.S.-supported partners in Syria," he told Anadolu Agency.

"In fact, the $250 million is requested to provide border security support to the governments of Jordan and Lebanon, not for partner forces in Syria."

Rankine-Galloway's earlier remarks follow a story from Anadolu Agency on a proposal in the U.S. Department of Defense’s 2019 fiscal year budget aimed at funding a border security force under the PYD/PKK-led SDF as part of its counter-Daesh campaign.

The Pentagon has denied the U.S. is enabling such a border security force. It was revealed that the Defense Department is seeking to allocate the money for "border security requirements" in Syria.

Also, the department's Leading Inspector General report for October-December 2017 disclosed last week revealed that the PYD/PKK-led SDF has begun training a border security force, internal security force and explosive hazard reduction specialists.

Contradicted by the U.S. government documents, the Pentagon is now making efforts to avert further tensions with its NATO ally, Turkey, which opposes U.S. support to the PYD/PKK under the name SDF.

"The most pressing border security need is on the Iraq-Syria border, where [Daesh] fighters were previously able to move with impunity," Rankine-Galloway had explained.

He said the U.S. is going to "identify any gaps in border security" in Syria and provide support to deal with those gaps, noting the U.S. continues to train local forces. But he denied it was a regular army or conventional border guard force.

Anadolu Agency was the first to report that the PYD/PKK-led SDF is creating a border security force in Syria. The story was later confirmed by coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon and caused significant tensions between Ankara and Washington.

The PKK, designated a terror group by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU, has waged a decades-long terror campaign in Turkey that has killed more than 40,000 people.

The terror group continues its armed campaign alongside its extension in Syria, the PYD.

Rankine-Galloway also touched on the Pentagon's request for $300 million for a train and equip program in Syria.

"Train and equip funding is designated to secure and defend territory previously controlled by [Daesh]," he said.

If approved by Congress, the U.S. would provide $550 million to Syrian groups, including the PYD/PKK-led SDF.

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