On November 24, Turkey’s Minister of Defense, Hulusi Akar, criticized a U.S. plan to establish observation posts along the Syrian-Turkish border and said that such measure would further complicate the situation in northeastern Syria.
“I am of the opinion that these measures will only complicate further an already complicated situation,” Akar told the Turkish Anadolu Agency.
Akar also revealed that he conveyed Turkey’s “discomfort” to the U.S. plan during a meeting with Gen. Joseph Dunford, the U.S. joint chiefs of staff chairman, last week on the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada.
“We have stated that the observation points to be established by the U.S. troops on the Syrian border will have a very negative impact […] and in the course of our discussions we expressed that it could lead to a perception that ‘U.S. soldiers are somehow protecting terrorist [Kurdish People’s Protection Units] YPG members and shield them,” said Akar.
The Turkish defense minister added that he hopes that U.S. will soon cut its relations with the YPG, which is “no different from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK),” according to him.
The YPG and (some PKK members) is a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main proxy of the US-led coalition in Syria. The Kurdish-dominated group controls a large part of northeastern Syria, including a strip of the Syrian-Turkish border.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis revealed earlier this week that U.S. forces will establish several observation posts in the SDF-held part of the Syrian-Turkish border. Mattis claimed that the posts will address Turkey’s “legitimate” concerns about “terror threats” in northeastern Syria.
Akar’s statement today confirms that Mattis was not honest, and that these post are meant to protect the SDF from any attack by the Turkish military or its proxies. This will likely spark a new conflict between Washington and Ankara, which are both egger to expand their influence in the war torn country.