KOBANE – The United States government will not choose between Turkey and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US State Department Spokesman John Kirby said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu proposed a joint military operation against the Islamic State group (ISIS) in northern Syria with US Special Forces, excluding Kurdish forces, to close down the Manbij pocket.
“If we join forces, they [the U.S.] have their own special forces and we have our special forces,” Çavuşoğlu was reported as saying by Agence France-Presse on May 30.
Turkey fears that the Kurdish forces will create a corridor to connect the Kurdish enclaves of Afrin and Kobane in northern Syria, after constant failures by Turkish-backed Syria rebel groups to stop ISIS offensives. ISIS fighters launched a heavy attack on Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups in Azaz and Marea on 27 May, almost overrunning them.
However, Kirby said the United States will not choose between Turkey or the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“We support efforts by the SDF; we’re going to continue to do that. I don’t see that changing inasmuch as they have been very effective on the ground against Daesh,” Kirby said on Tuesday, using an acronym for ISIS.
“We also have a strong relationship with Turkey, and Turkey – as I’ve said many times, this isn’t some esoteric discussion for them. It’s right along their border. It’s real,” Kirby added.
“And we appreciate the support that they’ve given to the coalition. We’re going to continue to look for ways to bolster that cooperation and to try to improve our joint efforts against Daesh.”
Kirby reinstated the US position that they will not choose between Turkey or Kurds. “(…) the only choice to be made is to continue the fight against Daesh. And it does require a true international coalition effort, and that’s what we’re going after. That’s the choice that everybody has to make, is how do you best defeat Daesh.”
On Tuesday, Kurdish-led SDF troops launched an operation to retake Manbij area from the Islamic State. The operation was backed by Turkey on the condition that the YPG [Kurdish forces leading the SDF] withdraw after the operation, and the city will be under control of Arabs.
A spokesman for the US-led coalition, which backs the SDF in its war on ISIS, told ARA News in an earlier interview that for the US “it’s critical that the ISIS-held Manbij pocket of 98-kilometers” is seized from the radical group.
“As to why the Manbij pocket is important, it represents a major border crossing point where foreign fighters can cross into Syria from Turkey,” said Colonel Christopher Garver, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition against the Islamic State.
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