The Pentagon announced Tuesday that American observation posts in northern Syria, meant to prevent altercations between the Turkish army and US-supported Kurdish militia, have been erected, despite Ankara’s request to scrap the move, AFP reported.
US support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has strained relations with Turkey, which fears the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish region on its southern border.
“At the direction of Secretary [James] Mattis, the US established observation posts in the northeast Syria border region to address the security concerns of our NATO ally Turkey,” Department of Defense spokesman Rob Manning said.
Mattis announced in November that the US military was in the process of installing the observation posts.
The measure aimed to reassure the YPG, which Turkey considers a “terrorist” group but which is the spearhead of the international fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
“We take Turkish security concerns seriously, and we are committed to coordinating our efforts with Turkey to bring stability to northeastern Syria,” Manning added.
The Turkish army since 2016 has already launched two military operations against Kurdish forces in Syria, the last of which saw Ankara-backed Syrian rebels take the border city of Afrin in March.
After Turkey shelled Kurdish militia posts in northern Syria in late October the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of which the YPG is the backbone, announced the suspension of their operations against ISIL for several days, to the embarrassment of Washington.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday criticized the newly established US observation posts along Syria’s border with Turkey, saying, “It is clear that the purpose of these US observation posts is not to protect our country from terrorists but to protect terrorists from Turkey.”
“Northern Syria is our southern [border],” he added. “They are striving to form a terror corridor there. We say ‘These are terrorists,’ and our strategic partners, particularly the US, say ‘They are not terrorists’.”