Jack Detsch September 9, 2019
Article Summary – AL MONITOR – The Pentagon said Monday it is “on time” or ahead of schedule in most areas of setting up a safe zone in Syria after initial patrols with Turkish troops over the weekend, despite lingering questions about the size and depth of the area.
The Pentagon insisted it was ahead of schedule in establishing a so-called “safe zone” Monday after conducting its first joint patrol in Syria’s northeast over the weekend, although the Donald Trump administration remained unclear on critical details about the area that will provide a buffer between Turkey and US-backed Syrian Kurds.
“Coordination and consultation between the US and Turkey are key to addressing Turkey’s legitimate security concerns in the region,” the US Central Command said in a statement Monday. “The US and Turkey are working together to rapidly implement the security mechanism and are on time or ahead of schedule in many areas.”
The statement comes after deputy chiefs from CENTCOM and the US European Command, which oversees American troops in Turkey, met with the Turkish general staff to discuss the safe zone. A Syrian Democratic Forces official told Al-Monitor that Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) pulled back from the border about 5 kilometers and up to 14 kilometers (3 to 9 miles) in some places, ceding the areas to local military councils.
Yet that remains far out of step with what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has requested. The military council in Tell Abyad, established in June, is formed by a backbone of YPG forces, which Turkey has singled out for links to the Kurdistan Workers Party, which has waged a low-level insurgency against Ankara for the past 30 years. “The military councils are either YPG members in all but name only,” said Nick Heras, a Syria expert at the Center for a New American Security.
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