Pentagon ‘very concerned’ about Turkey’s threat of new military incursion in northern Syria

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on February 1, 2022. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP)

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby on Thursday said they are very concerned about Turkey’s announcement that it intends to increase military activity in northern Syria, after the country’s National Security Council, a body that comprises civilian and military leaders, signaled it is near a fresh incursion into Syria against Kurdish forces backed by the US.

“Existing and new operations to be carried out are aimed at clearing our southern borders from the threat of terrorism,” Turkey’s National Security Council said in a statement after a four-hour meeting of top generals chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, referring to an ongoing offensive in northern Iraq against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants and the threat of a cross-border attack by Turkey against the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

The YPG spearheads the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which helps a joint coalition led by the US to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Ankara sees the YPG as an offshoot of the PKK, the Kurdish militant group that has waged an armed insurgency against Turkey since 1984. The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.

When asked about the Pentagon’s position on Turkey’s threat to launch a new military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, Kirby said,” On Turkey, I think we’re obviously very concerned about the Turks’ announcement that they intend to increase their military activity in northern Syria.”

Kirby said their concern is about the safety of the civilian population in the area and the impact of the military incursion on the fight against ISIL as SDF members would move away from counter-ISIL operations to the north to fend off the Turkish advance.

“And then, of course, just the potential for more humanitarian assistance needs. So we’ve expressed as a government our concern over this,” Kirby added.

Erdoğan announced on Monday that Turkey is planning to launch a new military operation in northern Syria to establish a safe zone in the region and secure Turkey’s southern border.

Erdoğan said the aim of the operation would be to resume Turkish efforts to create a 30-kilometer safe zone along its border with Syria.

The Turkish president’s comments come at a time when Turkey is objecting to Sweden and Finland’s membership in NATO, citing the two countries alleged support for the PKK and other groups that Turkey views as terrorist, as well as their decision to impose restrictions on military sales to Turkey following Ankara’s incursion into Syria in 2019.

Turkey and its proxies have seized control of territory inside Syria over several military operations launched since 2016 against ISIL and the YPG.

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