Syria: US opposed to southern offensive against partners

We would oppose efforts to move south and engage in activities against the Syrian Democratic Forces,' Ben Rhodes says.

 

Michael Hernandez - WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. said Monday that while it supports Turkey's efforts to secure its border, it is opposed to Operation Euphrates Shield moving further south to target a U.S.-backed Syrian opposition group.

“We do not support and we would oppose efforts to move south and engage in activities against the Syrian Democratic Forces, the SDF opposition that we have supported,” President Barack Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters at the White House.

Turkish Armed Forces launched Operation Euphrates Shield early Aug 24 with the stated goal of clearing Turkey’s southern border of terror groups and enhancing border security.

The U.S. continues to support Turkish efforts to clear Jarabulus of any Daesh fighters, Rhodes said, but added, “Further action against the SDF would further complicate efforts to have that united front against ISIL that we want.

“At the same time we’ve communicated to the SDF that they should not be engaged in military activity against Turkish forces, and again they have a commitment to retrograde east of the Euphrates River as well,” he said.

The SDF’s ranks are comprised primarily of fighters from the YPG, which Turkey considers the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, a terror group that has also been designated as such by the U.S. and EU.        

But Washington has refrained from similarly labeling the YPG, which has been its principal partner in the anti-Daesh fight in Syria.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the U.S. would not change course on its support for the SDF, adding that U.S. strategy “has been very successful.

“The SDF proved very effective in Manbij, and Turkey is an extremely effective, not only counter-ISIL partner, but NATO ally,” he said during a joint press conference with his Indian counterpart.  

“American interests are quite clear: we, like they, want to combat ISIL and we’re calling on them all now: let’s keep our priorities clear,” Carter said.

The U.S. is currently trying to "de-conflict" the situation, and has asked Turkey to stay focused on the Daesh fight, Carter said. 

State Department spokesman John Kirby added that it could be perceived as playing into the hands of the Syrian government. 

"Any effort that is taking away from our ability to defeat Daesh is certainly not helping the international community, it's not helping the Syrian people, and it could be perceived by some as a potential benefit to Bashar al-Assad," he said.

But he added that "it's a little too soon to, sort of, try and measure, you know, significant benefits to the regime at this point.”

U.S. officials have estimated the SDF has captured some 28,000 square kilometers (10,800 square miles) of Daesh’s former territory in Syria.

The U.S.’s support for the SDF is likely to be discussed when Obama meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday prior to the start of the G20 summit in China.

Obama “will want to discuss” post-coup Turkey, the counter-Daesh campaign, “and our efforts to promote greater stability in Syria and response to the refugee crisis” during their meeting, Rhodes said.

 


 

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