Turkey Suggests Joint Operations With US, But Wihout Kurds
Such an alliance between the two NATO-member countries could “easily advance to Raqqa,” Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said late on Sunday in Antalya.
Cavusoglu said Ankara is in discussions with the United States regarding “closure of the Manbij pocket as soon as possible,” referring to a stretch of the Turkish-Syrian border west of the Euphrates and currently under the control of ISIS, “and opening of a second front.”
“We say okay, a second front should be opened but not with the PYD,” he stated. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) and their armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), are key Kurdish allies of the United States in Rojava, northern Syria, in the fight against ISIS.
Some American special forces are in northern Syria advising and assisting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of local forces dominated by the YPG, in the war with the Islamic State. The SDF, with assistance from American special forces, is currently conducting an operation to clear ISIS from territory north of Raqqa.
The cooperation between the Americans and the Kurds rankles Ankara who considers the YPG and PYD terrorist organizations with ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Turkish leaders have repeatedly demanded the US sever their ties with the YPG and PYD, something the US has refused to do.
“Unfortunately, the US is entering a phase that is very dangerous for the future of Syria,” Cavusoglu said. “We have warned them.”
Cavusoglu also accused the US of failing to follow through on a promise to deliver HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) missiles to Turkey this month. The weapons were intended to be deployed along the Turkish border with Syria to combat ISIS.
“We are ready but instead of implementing the agreement, [US soldiers] are going and wearing the patches of the YPG,” Cavusoglu complained, referring to photographs that emerged last week of US special forces in Syria wearing the insignia of local Kurdish groups. The forces were subsequently ordered to stop wearing the patches, in light of the political sensitivities.
Delivery of the missiles is now expected in August.
The United States has not issued a response to Turkey’s offer for joint operations, as of yet.