Pentagon: Kurds are not the only ally in anti-ISIS campaign

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Kurdish fighters of the YPG [leading SDF member] in Afrin bid farewell to comrades killed during clashes against ISIS. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

QAMISHLO – The Pentagon said they will not only work with the Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to fight the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. 

“We continue to support forces in Syria that have been successful in taking the fight to ISIL [ISIS]. And we’ve worked with the Arab forces, with Turkish and with Kurdish forces, with Turkmen as well,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.

“And so, there are groups that are – have been successful in taking the fight to ISIL. That’s [Kurds] one of them, but our work specifically has been with a range of different groups, as you know, in Syria, and we will continue to support those forces on the ground that are being successful,” he added.

Although the US-coalition recognizes that the YPG is a successful group on the ground, the US said they also want to work with other forces.

“The YPG is on the ground in Syria. I think their efforts against ISIL have been documented, but they’re not the only force taking the fight to ISIL, and we’ve been successful in establishing ties with some of those other forces,” he added. 

The Pentagon chief did not want to confirm reports that there is a decision to take control of the 98 kilometers Manbij pocket on Syria-Turkey borderline, that the Pentagon thinks would be significant to capture from IIS militants to prevent foreign fighters from entering Syria.

“Obviously, we have concerns for Turkey, and the threat ISIL poses to Turkey, including in that part of Syria,” he said. 

“So, these are ongoing conversations we’re having at a significant level with the Turkish government, both the Department of Defense and other members of the U.S. government. But with regard to that particular area, we’ve identified that area for some time as a place where ISIL has taken root. And anything that can be done to remove ISIL from that part of Syria, we think would be significant, certainly would shore up the effort to prevent foreign fighters from being able to cross that border,” Cook said.

“And we think anything that can be done to bolster that border security would be important. I’m not going to get into private discussions that are having, that we may be having with the Turkish government about exactly how that’s being carried out, but we see that goal and we share the interest that Turkey has in getting rid of ISIL as a threat in that part of Syria,” he said.

The US state department did not want to give much information about future operations to take Manbij.

For the Kurds, it is more important to open a corridor through Manbij to the surrounded enclave of Afrin, than taking Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State. 

“We have spoken, though, extensively about the importance of that stretch of border in supporting Turkey’s efforts to making sure that that border is closed,” Elizabeth Trudeau, Director of the US State Department Press Office said on Monday. “We actually spoke to that in the statement today with the Russians and the importance of helping and intensifying our efforts with regional allies to making sure that Daesh is not getting the financing,” she added.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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