Posted on September 6, 2016 by Editorial Staff in Kurdistan
Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy to the US-led coalition fighting IS. Photo: AP
WASHINGTON,— Washington dispatched a top envoy to meet with allied Kurdish forces inside Syrian Kurdistan last week, a State Department official said Monday, following tensions after Turkey began operations in the war-torn country.
Washington found itself trapped between two key allies who are bitter foes — NATO partner Turkey, and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, also taking part in the war against the Islamic State jihadist group but considered a “terrorist” group by Ankara.
A State Department spokesman told AFP that Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy to the US-led coalition fighting IS, met with forces from the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces SDF alliance.
The alliance is led by the powerful Kurdish YPG, and recently captured the town of Manbij from IS, prompting alarm in Ankara and demands that Kurdish forces withdraw east of the Euphrates river.
Ankara fears the Kurds will create a contiguous autonomous zone in Syrian Kurdistan (northern Syria), emboldening Kurdish separatists inside Turkey.
The spokesman said McGurk pledged “ongoing US support for the SDF in the fight against ISIL (IS), while emphasising the need for strict adherence to prior commitments”, a reference to demands the SDF withdraw east of the Euphrates.
“In all of his meetings, he encouraged unity of effort and de-confliction between all forces fighting ISIL in northern Syria,” the spokesman said.
Turkey launched an unprecedented cross-border offensive into Syria on August 24, saying it was aimed at ridding the frontier of both IS group jihadists and prevent US-backed Kurdish YPG forces from extending areas under their control and connecting Syrian Kurdistan’s Kobani and Hassaka in the east with Afrin canton in the west.
Last week, the Pentagon was forced to call on Turkey and Kurdish forces to avoid fighting each other, after clashes in northern Syria.
McGurk also held talks last week in Turkey, the spokesman said.
“He met with senior Turkish officials to discuss US support for efforts to clear ISIL entirely from the border region… (and) also discussed planning for the Mosul campaign in Iraq, and closer US and Turkish cooperation to accelerate ISIL’s ultimate defeat.”
On Sunday, Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels expelled IS from the last part of the Syrian-Turkish border under their control.
But much of the earlier work to push IS back from the border was done by the YPG and its allies.
The YPG said on Aug.5 that its forces have returned to their bases after the mission was successfully completed in Manbij. A US defense official told AFP last week that US-backed Kurdish YPG forces have “all” moved east of the Euphrates River.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Sunday “We will never allow the formation of an artificial state in the north of Syria.
Syrian Kurds have established three autonomous zones, or Cantons of Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin and a Kurdish government across Syrian Kurdistan (northern Syria) in 2013. On March 17, 2016 Syria’s Kurds declared a federal region in Syrian Kurdistan.