Washington understands Turkey’s concerns and warns against jeopardizing the safety of its soldiers in Syria

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon expressed understanding for Turkey’s security concerns, but also said that Ankara’s recent airstrikes in northern Syria threatened the safety of US personnel, and that the escalating situation jeopardized years of progress against Islamic State militants .

These public comments represent the sharpest US condemnation of Turkey’s air operations against Kurdish militants in northern Syria to date.

“The recent airstrikes in Syria threaten the safety of U.S. military personnel working with local partners in Syria to defeat the Islamic State group and maintain the detention of more than 10,000 detainees from the militant group,” Brigadier General Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said. in a statement.

He added that the United States “recognizes Turkey’s legitimate security concerns.”

And he added, “An immediate calm is needed to maintain focus on the mission to defeat the Islamic State and to ensure the safety and security of the military on the ground committed to the mission to defeat the organization .”

The United States has about 900 troops in Syria, mainly in the northeast, working with the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is led by Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units, to fight the remnants of the Islamic State.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Ankara’s air operations were just the beginning and that it would launch a ground operation when appropriate after escalating retaliatory attacks.

Ankara launched air operations over the weekend in response to a bombing in Istanbul a week ago that killed six people, which it blamed on the YPG. No group has claimed responsibility, and the PKK and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) have denied involvement.

Turkey has previously made military incursions into Syria to target the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it considers a wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider ‘ classify a terrorist group.

This is not the first time that Turkish operations in northern Syria have threatened the US military. In 2019, US forces in the region came under artillery fire from Turkish positions as Ankara launched an attack on Kurdish militants then allied with the US.

Turkey continued to target sites of Kurdish fighters in northern Syria on Wednesday, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed his “determination” to intervene to secure his country’s southern borders.

“Our determination to protect all our southern borders through a safe zone is stronger today than ever before,” he said.

On Sunday, within the framework of what it calls Operation “Claw Sword”, Turkey launched a series of airstrikes and continuous artillery bombardment against the positions of the PKK and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in northern Iraq and Syria.

In the latest episode in the series of Turkish attacks, Turkish airstrikes on Wednesday night targeted positions of the Kurdish security forces responsible for protecting the Al-Hol camp, where thousands of displaced persons and members of ISIS families are located in northeastern Syria is. according to a spokesman and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, Farhad Shami, told AFP: “Turkish aircraft targeted the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) with five strikes inside the camp,” while the Observatory reported that the strikes targeted the positions of those forces who responsible for protecting the camp in its vicinity, “which unleashed a state of chaos.” among its inhabitants.

Both Russia and the United States have called for de-escalation.

Erdogan specified his main objectives, speaking of the areas of “Tal Rifaat, Manbij and Ayn al-Arab” (Kobani in Kurdish), aiming to secure Turkey’s southern borders by establishing a safe zone 30 km deep.

The Turkish and US chiefs of staff discussed “current developments” on Wednesday, according to the Turkish military, which added no details.

In a message sent to Agence France-Presse, the American Central Command confirmed that a Turkish attack on Tuesday hit a joint military base of the Syrian Democratic Forces and the international coalition led by Washington in Al-Hasakah governorate (northeast) aimed, exposing American forces. to “danger”.

US Central Command said otherwise on Tuesday.

After the United States and Russia called on Turkey to exercise “restraint,” France said on Wednesday it was following “the continued escalation with concern,” saying in a press statement that the ground attack “undermines the stability of the region and the safety will be threatened. of its population.”

Farhad Shami said that the Turkish bombing targeted a Russian base located north of Tal Tamr in Al-Hasakah Governorate, killing a member of the Syrian Democratic Forces and wounding three others.

A Turkish official confirmed to France Press that the air operation “is likely to continue for a while,” and when the situation becomes favorable, Turkish forces in Syria will launch a ground invasion, citing the presence of Turkish military units at the Syrian side of the border for three years.

Ankara has launched a series of attacks on Syria since 2016, targeting Kurdish sites as well as members of the Islamic State.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday that “471 targets were bombed and 254 terrorists were neutralized” in “punishing” strikes by the Turkish air force and artillery.

He stressed that “the Turkish armed forces only target terrorist organizations and their affiliated sites.” “We have no problems with any ethnic, religious or sectarian group, or with our Kurdish or Arab brothers,” he added.

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