Ahmad Osman, commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA)-affiliated Sultan Murat Brigade, said Friday that the FSA was ready to take part in operations east of the Euphrates River against Kurdish militia.
“Preparations are already underway; we have many well-trained fighters,” he told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.
“The only problem is the US troop presence in the region,” he added. “I’m hoping the US withdraws and the Turkish army — backed by the FSA — expels the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] from areas east of the river, where it is pretending to be fighting Daesh [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)].”
“In reality, there is no [ISIL] presence in Raqqah, Al-Hasakah or Tal Abyad; therefore, we can carry out operations there,” Osman said. “But the US wants to remain in this area, meaning that US support for the PKK is hindering operations east of the Euphrates.”
“Fortunately, we cleared one end of the border [of terrorists] following [the Turkish-led] Operation Olive Branch. Now there are civilian administrations operating effectively in these areas,” he added, referring to the Turkish army’s military offensive in the Syrian city of Afrin.
The largest armed fighter group in the US-led anti-ISIL coalition belongs to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia group operating in the northeast of Syria.
Turkey considers the YPG an offshoot of the PKK, which is designated as a terrorist group by Ankara, the US and European Union.