Turkey – U.S. says its troops in Syria are «directly threatened» after Turkish airstrikes

Pentagon
Pentagon Spokesman Pat Ryder – PO2 ALEXANDER KUBITZA/DOD / ZUMA PRESS / CONTACTOP

The U.S. Defense Department said Wednesday that Turkey’s attacks in Syria and Iraq «directly» threaten the safety of U.S. troops, following a military offensive launched Monday against Kurdish groups it accuses of being behind the Nov. 13 bombing in the city of Istanbul.

«Recent airstrikes in Syria have directly threatened the safety of U.S. personnel working in Syria with local partners to defeat Islamic State,» Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder said, according to a statement from his office.

«In addition, uncoordinated military actions threaten the sovereignty of Iraq,» he added, after expressing «deep concern» about the escalation of actions in the aforementioned countries and condemning the loss of civilian lives.

He has also offered his condolences to the families in both Turkey and Syria. «We are also concerned about reports of deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure,» he said. In this regard, Ryder asserted that «immediate de-escalation is necessary to maintain focus on the mission to defeat the Islamic State and ensure the safety of personnel on the ground.»

For his part, the US State Department spokesman, Ned Price, called for an «immediate de-escalation» in the area and stressed that «recent military actions destabilize the region, threaten the common goal of combating the Islamic State and endanger US civilians and personnel».

Price, who acknowledged Turkey’s «legitimate security concerns,» stressed that Washington «has conveyed its grave concerns about the impact of the escalation in Syria on anti-Islamic State targets and on civilians on both sides of the border.»

«We express our sincere condolences for the loss of life that has taken place in Syria and Turkey,» he concluded, days after Turkey announced the start of operation ‘Claw-Sword’ against Kurdish groups, which it blames for the recent bomb attack in Istanbul that left at least six dead and 81 wounded.

In this line, the spokesman of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Farhad Shami, has expressed himself in his account on the social network Twitter that «due to the concern of the forces when responding to the Turkish occupation, they cannot continue their mission of pursuing the cells of the Islamic State».

«At this time, we are forced to be preoccupied when it comes to dealing with Turkish aggression,» he said. The SDF is a coalition of militias led by the Kurdish-majority People’s Protection Units (YPG) and supported by the U.S.-led international coalition.

The Turkish government on Wednesday put the number of alleged members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the YPG «neutralized» in the new bombing campaign launched on Monday against targets in northern Iraq and Syria at more than 250.

Turkish authorities use the term «neutralized» to refer to suspects having been killed, captured or surrendered to authorities. As these are bombings, it implies that Ankara considers them dead.

However, the SDF on Tuesday rejected the Turkish government’s claims about its casualties in the recent bombings and indicated that only one of its members has been killed. Thus, the SDF Media and Information Department stressed that Ankara’s figures «are not correct».