Turkey’s deepening cross-border operation into northern Syria, where it has clashed with terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-linked Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces, has attracted a warning from the United States, calling on all armed actors to stand down and focus on the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the coalition to counter ISIL, wrote on his official Twitter account on Monday that the clashes between Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), comprising mainly fighters from the YPG, in areas where ISIL is not located, is not acceptable. “We want to make clear that we find these clashes … unacceptable and a source of deep concern,” he said.
Citing a Defense Department statement, McGurk called on Turkish and SDF armed forces to stand down and take appropriate measures to deconflict and open channels of communication. He also noted that the US is actively engaged in facilitating such deconfliction and unity of focus on ISIL, which remains a lethal and common threat.
According to monitoring groups in Syria, Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies, the Free Syrian Army, seized territory controlled by Kurdish-aligned forces on Sunday, killing at least 35 villagers.
Turkey says their main goal in Syria is to drive out ISIL but also to ensure that Kurdish militia fighters do not expand the territory they already control along Turkey’s border.
The Kurdish YPG is backed by the US in the fight against ISIL and jihadists, but Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the terrorist PKK, which has waged a three-decade-long insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish Southeast.