On February 12, the Pentagon requested $550 million to train and equip units operating under the brand of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The $550 million will be separated into two parts:
- $300 million to train and equip the SDF;
- $250 million for so-called “border security requirements related to the counter-[ISIS] mission”.
In other words, Washington not only tricked the Erdogan government with its promises to drop support to the SDF, but not even abandoned the idea to establish the so-called “border force” in northern Syria.
Ankara describes the Kurdish-dominated SDF as well as its core the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) as a terrorist organization, the local branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is officially designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and many other countries and is involved in a long-standing militancy campaign against the Aknara government. Thus, Turkey sees any arms supplies or additionally trained forces within the SDF in northern Syria as a threat to its national security.
On January 17, US State Secretary Rex Tillerson officially said that the US has no intention to establish a “border force”. But, the reality seems to be a quite different. The Pentagon’s request sparked an outrage in the Turkish media and negative comments by the Turkish leadership further complicating the diplomatic relations between the sides.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister slammed the Pentagon’s plans and said they “will bring relations between the two countries to a near breaking level”.
“The US should move together with Turkey and stand by Turkey against PKK/PYD/YPG, which we regard as a terrorist organization,” Cavusoglu told the state-run channel TRT News.
The country’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu went further:
“Ties with the U.S. are at very critical point. We will either fix these relations or they will break completely,” he told reporters in Istanbul. “We want concrete steps [from Washington]. Missing trust needs to be restored. The reason for that missing trust is the US”.