America changes tune over 30,000-soldier border security force

The announcement of a 30,000-soldier border security force in majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-held territory in Syria by the global coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS) on Sunday was a mistake, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was quoted by Turkish state news agency Anadolu as saying.

The Pentagon later confirmed to Ahval that the United States was changing the way it spoke about the issue.

"That entire situation has been misportrayed, misdescribed, some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all," Tillerson said.

"We have ISIS still attacking in parts of northwest Syria and along the Euphrates valley, so this is just more training and trying to block ISIS from their escape routes."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had called the putative force a “terror army” and pledged to “strangle it before it was born”.

"We understand why they reacted the way they did," Tillerson said.

Elements of the SDF are closely linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been involved in a bloody separatist conflict in southeast Turkey intermittently since 1984.

However, the continued training of local security forces in SDF-held areas was  “essential so that ISIS cannot reemerge in liberated and ungoverned areas,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Ahval.

“This is not a new ‘army’ or conventional ‘border guard’ force,” Pahon said in a written statement.

“This training and these forces are consistent with campaign objectives to ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS, facilitate stabilisation efforts, and create the conditions that support the UN-led Geneva process.”

The forces were intended to protect the local population and prevent a reemergence of ISIS in the area, Pahon said, and would not be directed against Turkey.

“Turkey's security concerns are legitimate,” he said. “We will continue to be completely transparent with Turkey about our efforts in Syria to defeat ISIS and stand by our NATO ally in its counter-terrorism efforts.”