MESOP NEWS 29 April 2017 – A commander of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia says US forces will begin monitoring the situation along the Syria-Turkey border after Turkish airstrikes on YPG positions, followed by clashes between the two sides. Sharvan Kobani said the monitoring had not yet begun, but the US forces will report to senior American commanders.On Tuesday, Turkey launched strikes on YPG in northeastern Syria near the border and on the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK — with which the YPG is connected — in northern Iraq. There was also cross-border shelling between the YPG and the Turks, and fighting in the border town of Darbasiya inside Syria.
The YPG said more than 20 of its fighters were killed and 18 wounded, three critically.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the sites of the PKK, which has fought Turkish security forces for more than 30 years, and the YPG are a “terrorist hub” which must be eliminated. On Friday, Erdoğan highlighted ongoing support from Iraqi Kurdish leaders, meeting Nechirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government and nephew of President Masoud Barzani.
Hours after the initial Turkish attacks, a US commander was seen alongside YPG colleagues — including the overall commander Sahin Cilo, reportedly the adopted son of PKK founder Abdollah Ocalan — inspecting the damaged positions, as US Central Command expressed its “serious concern” over the Turkish attacks on “our partners”. Kobani met with American commanders in Darbasiya on Friday before making his statement.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said on Friday that US troops are deployed along the border.
“We continue to urge all the parties involved to focus on the common enemy which is ISIS,” he said. Davis would not confirm that the US deployment is to prevent the Turkish military from fighting the YPG. The US has supported the Syrian Democratic Forces, of which the YPG is the leading element, since its creation in autumn 2015 to fight the Islamic State in northeast Syria. The Americans have provided special forces, armor, and other weapons and equipment.
Having moved west across the Euphrates River — previously a Turkish “red line” — and further into northern Syrian towns, the SDF was supposed to move on ISIS’s main position, the city of Raqqa. However, the offensive has been held up for months by political issues, notably the tension between the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD), its YPG military branch, and Ankara.
US forces, along with Russia and pro-Assad units, also helped establish a buffer area between the SDF and an advancing Turkish-rebel force in northern Aleppo Province in early March. Erdoğan had declared that the Turkish-rebel offensive would push the YPG and its allies out of the city of Manbij, captured by the SDF from ISIS in June 2016.
Erdoğan to Play Raqqa Card With Trump
Turkish President Erdoğan said on Friday that he will try to convince Donald Trump that the Turkish-rebel force, rather than the SDF, should lead the offensive against ISIS in Raqqa.
Erdoğan is visiting Washington in May. He said at an energy conference in Istanbul:
Turkey, coalition forces led by the United States and the Free Syrian Army all together can wipe [ISIS] out. This is not a difficult thing for us, I believe we can achieve this and I will tell this to Trump.
He continued, “I am seeing signs that Trump…will display a more decisive stance in the fight against terrorism and in ending state terror in Syria.” www.mesop.de