Tuesday, May 16, 2017

US expresses deep concern about Turkish air strikes on Kurds in Syria and Iraq

(April 26)After Turkey carried out a series of airstrikes against Kurdish allies in Syria and Iraq, US officials expressed deep concern. Turkish warplanes attacked targets both in northern Syria and also near Singar Iraq.

A senior US official told CNN that the US was given only about an hour's advance notice by the Turkish military before the strikes. However no US or coalition advisers were in the areas attacked. The Turkish armed forces issued a statement that claimed that they had neutralized 70 PKK terrorist fighters, 40 in Iraq and 30 in northeastern Syria. The PKK is a Kurdish separatist group that has carried out terrorist attacks in Turkey. However Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) a key US ally in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) and also the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq also said they had suffered casualties as the result of the Turkish airstrikes.
Mark Toner, acting State Department spokesperson said: "We are very concerned, deeply concerned, that Turkey conducted airstrikes earlier today in northern Syria as well as northern Iraq without proper coordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition to defeat ISIS. We have expressed those concerns to the government of Turkey directly." The US Pentagon also issued a separate statement on the strikes by Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway who said:"These ‎airstrikes were not approved by the Counter-ISIS Coalition and led to the unfortunate loss of life of our partner forces in the fight against ISIS, including the Kurdish Peshmerga.Given the extraordinarily complex battle space in these areas, it is vital that Turkey and all partners in the defeat-ISIS effort coordinate their actions closely as we work together to maintain maximum pressure on ISIS and ensure the safety of all Coalition personnel in theater."The Peshmerga are the military forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government that enjoys some autonomy from the Iraqi federal government. The group claimed five of its members were killed and nine wounded by the attacks. They blamed the presence of PKK soldiers nearby for the casualties.
Turkey views the PKK and the Kurdish forces within the SDF, the YPG or People's Protective Units as also terrorist whereas the US considers them allies. Turkey has even called the US two-faced for not classifying the YPG as terrorist along with the PKK. However, the US considers the SDF including the YPG as a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State angering Turkey and causing tension in their relations. The SDF is at present engaged in an offensive designed to take the Syrian city of Raqqa, the IS "capital" in Syria. Rankine-Galloway said: "We recognize the threat the PKK poses to Turkey, but Turkey cannot pursue that fight at the expense of our common fight against terrorists that threaten us all."
After Erdogan narrowly won a referendum giving him substantially more powers, President Trump phoned to congratulate him on his victory. Many other leaders were reluctant to congratulate Erdogan in the light of many objections against the process and complaints of irregularities in the voting. However, Trump's move does not seem to have led to any greater cooperation with the US. However, a recent tweet claims: "Turkish President , PM make phone call to President Barzani, insist that attack on #Peshmerga was a "mistake" and "not intentional at all" " Yet another tweet points out that the strikes were carried without any coordination with the coalition of forces carrying out the fight against the IS, Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR): "Turkish strikes were conducted without proper coordination with the Coalition or the Government of Iraq." Some have suggested that the attacks would not have been carried out without the tacit approval of the coalition.
Activists claim that in the Syrian attacks 18 members of the YPG were killed. There were no Turkish apologies about these casualties even though the YPG are firm allies of the US which provides them equipment, air, and even ground support. The YPG said that strikes hit a radio station and media center killing a number of fighters but they did not say how many. The strikes were in the town of Karachok in the northeastern Hassakeh province.
US relations with Turkey are also hurt by the refusal of the US so far to extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey claims was behind the coup attempt against Erdogan. A recent article notes: "The continuing reluctance of the United States to extradite Gulen, despite the “ample proof” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag claims to have furnished his US counterpart, is also adding to Erdogan’s anger." Bozdag is now warning US officials that Gulen has bought a ranch in Canada and that he is allegedly preparing to flee there. Maybe, Gulen is one immigrant that Canada can do without!


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