By Safvan Allahverdi
WASHINGTON (AA) – The Pentagon on Thursday dismissed the recently announced name "Border Security Force" for local security forces being trained in Syria, saying the U.S.-led coalition is training the PKK/PYD-led SDF as a "stabilization” and “hold force".
The latest development follows an announcement Sunday by Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, officially known as Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), that the coalition was creating a 30,000-strong border security force in northern Syria. In a stark contradiction, however, the Pentagon and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that the U.S. was not creating an army or conventional border guard force.
“There was a mischaracterization of the training that we are providing to local security forces in Syria," Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Anadolu Agency.
"What we are doing is designed to enable our partner forces to maintain local security, as our statement said, for people who are returning to their homes.”
Pahon said the training is “aimed also at preventing an outflow of fleeing ISIS [Daesh] terrorists as their presence comes to an end and they start trying to scatter”.
Responding to an Anadolu Agency correspondent’s question on whether it would be a policing force, Pahon said he would not characterize it that way, saying it is a “kind of security or stabilization force” or “some sort of hold force".
Pahon emphasized that the "hold force" is meant to secure small areas where Daesh has been removed and to prevent the terror group’s resurgence.
The PYD/PKK 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.
U.S. cooperation with the PYD/PKK under the banner of the SDF has drawn heavy criticism from Turkey.
Ankara was outraged over Dillon's statement announcing that the coalition would establish a new “border security force” with the SDF in Syria.
Pahon attempted to ease tensions with Turkey.
“We are aware of the security concerns that our NATO ally Turkey has presented. We have been in regular discussions with Turkey particularly since this issue cropped up. Our senior leaders have been talking. I am not going to get into the content of those discussions. Turkey is also a valuable member of the coalition.”
On the other hand, he acknowledged that the U.S. has been providing continuous training to PYD/PKK-led SDF elements in northern Syria but declined to provide details.
*Kasim Ileri contributed to this report.