Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s Afrin is distracting from efforts to ensure the defeat of ISIS and increases the risk of “exacerbating the humanitarian crisis” in the war-torn country, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.
“This could be exploited by ISIS and Al-Qaeda, obviously, that we’re not staying focused on them right now. And obviously it risks exacerbating the humanitarian crisis that most of Syria is going through,” the Pentagon’s chief told reproters during his trip to Indonesia.
Mattis called on Turkey to exercise restraint and accused it of disrupting the peaceful return of refugees. However, he added that the US understands Turkey’s security concerns over so-called active Kurdish insurgency inside Turkish borders.
Meawnhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson claimed that the US wants to work with Turkey to create a kind of “security zone” in northwestern Syria.
“So we’re in discussions with the Turks and some of the forces on the ground as well as to how we can stabilize this situation and meet Turkey’s legitimate concerns for their security,” Tillerson said, according to a reporter travelling with him to Paris.
Washington will attempt to use Ankara’s Operation Olive Branch to expand its influence further in the area.