Feb 23 2018

Pentagon spokesman responds with concern to Erdoğan tirade

A Pentagon spokesperson has responded to criticism from Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after the Turkish president took offence to his remarks about civilian casualties in the ongoing Turkish offensive in northwest Syria, Operation Olive Branch.

Pentagon spokesperson Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway’s response emphasised the United States’ significant concerns around the fighting in Afrin and reiterated the call for measures to prevent civilian casualties in Olive Branch, which has slowly advanced towards the town centre of Afrin since it was launched on Jan. 20 this year.

Rankine-Galloway’s previous comments about civilian casualties earlier this week prompted an indignant reaction from the Turkish president.

“The thing that upsets us the most is the hypocrisy and insincerity of some of our partners, of some countries with which we have profound political and military relations,” responded Erdoğan during a speech on Friday, accusing Washington of double standards for ignoring the Syrian regime’s atrocities elsewhere in Syria while criticising Turkey’s operation in Afrin.

“We are very concerned about the situation in northwest Syria, and we call on all parties to remain focused on defeating ISIS, de-escalating and resolving the Syrian conflict, and protecting innocent civilians,” wrote Rankine-Galloway in an email response to Ahval’s questions regarding Erdoğan’s comments.

Pentagon spokesperson also said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime “continues to commit atrocities against the Syrian people, abetted by international backers”, and highlighted the regime’s attacks in Eastern Ghouta, Bayt Jinn, and Idlib province which he said were in violation of international agreements.

The fighting in Afrin is particularly damaging for U.S.-Turkey relations since Turkey’s considers the People’s Protection Units (YPG), U.S. allies against ISIS, as its adversary. Erdoğan also repeated his threat to take the fight against the YPG to the nearby area of Manbij, where U.S. special forces are deployed.

Rankine-Galloway addressed the complicated situation between the two NATO allies and the Syrian Kurdish forces in the email, saying that the United States recognised the Afrin operation as Turkey’s right to secure its border. He went on to say that the “armed Kurdish groups” defending Afrin were not partners with the United States.