Just a month after the US promised Turkey to halt its arms supplies to the Syrian Kurdish fighters, the Pentagon announced plans to created a 30,000-strong border force from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Afrin, which has been dubbed as a “terrorist army” by Ankara.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis urged Turkey to show restraint in its military offensive in Kurdish enclave of Afrin in Syria.
“The violence in Afrin disrupts what was a relatively stable area in Syria and distracts from the international effort to defeat Daesh,” Mattis told reporters traveling with him in Indonesia ona the secretary’s tour of Asia.
The Pentagon’s chief has also warned that violence in the Afrin region could be exploited by Daesh terrorists in Syria, though earlier, he stated that the US understands Ankara’s security concerns, provided that it is the only NATO member state which has an active insurgency on its territory, adding that Washington is “engaged” with Ankara on the situation.
The relations between Washington and Ankara have further deteriorated after the US announced building a 30,000-strong new security force on the Syrian border from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which are largely dominated by People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The US plans immediatedly prompted angry reaction from Ankara, with Erdogan accusing Washington of forming a “terrorist army” and vowing to strangle it “until it is born.”
Turkey has repeatedly stated that the key condition for the continuation of cooperation between Ankara and Washington is the cessation of US weapons deliveries to Syrian Kurds and the return of previously supplied weapons.
In November 2017, the US President Donald Trump pledged to cut off supplies of weapons to Syrian Kurds in a move to please Ankara. However, Turkey continues to maintain that Washington is still arming Kurdish fighters, with the US announcement of a new border force creation only adding fuel to the flames.
Turkey is concerned over Washington’s support for the YPG fighters in Syria as Ankara considers them to be a terrorist organization linked to Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK, which struggling against the Turkish government, calling for a creation of an independent Kurdish state in Turkey, is listed as a terrorist organization by both Ankara and Washington. However, the US draws a clear distinction between the PKK and the Syrian Kurds.