Pentagon pleads for halt to fighting between Turkey, U.S.-backed Kurdish forces

by WorldTribune Staff, August 30, 2016

The Pentagon on Aug. 29 called on “all actors” in clashes in Syria between Turkey and forces fighting for the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led alliance to “stand down immediately.”

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook condemned the fighting south of the Syrian town of Jarabulus, saying “we want to make clear that we find these clashes unacceptable and they are a source of deep concern.”

Turkish army tanks drive to the Syrian-Turkey border town of Jarabulus on Aug. 25. /AFP/Bulent Kilic
Turkish army tanks drive to the Syrian-Turkey border town of Jarabulus on Aug. 25. /AFP/Bulent Kilic

After Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) was driven from Jarabulus, Turkey’s focus turned to fighters with the Kurdish-led and U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

“We are closely monitoring reports of clashes south of Jarabulus – where ISIL is no longer located – between the Turkish armed forces, some opposition groups, and units that are affiliated with the SDF (Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces),” Cook said.

The United States “was not involved in these activities, they were not coordinated with U.S. forces, and we do not support them,” he said.

“This is an already crowded battle space. Accordingly, we are calling on all armed actors to stand down immediately and take appropriate measures to de-conflict.”

Ankara said on Aug. 28 its forces had killed 25 Kurdish “terrorists” and insisted the army was doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.

But the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 40 civilians were killed in Turkish shelling and airstrikes on two areas held by pro-Kurdish forces, the first report of significant civilian casualties in Turkey’s operation.

Turkey began its operation in Syria against ISIL and Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) on Aug. 24.
Turkey considers the YPG, which is the main component of the U.S.-backed SDF, a “terrorist” group and said it would continue to target the group if it failed to retreat east of the Euphrates River.

“We have made this clear to the YPG elements of the SDF. We have reiterated our view that the YPG must cross back to the eastern side of the Euphrates and understand that has largely occurred,” Cook said.

Turkey said it had seen “no evidence of this.”

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