U.S. observation posts will further complicate matters in Syria - Turkish defence minister

The U.S. government’s decision to build observation posts in Syria along the Turkish border will further complicate the already complicated situation in the region, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said, Anadolu Agency reported on Saturday.
The U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis said on Wednesday that the U.S. military would be building observation outposts in northern Syria along the Turkish border to help keep the focus on defeating Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria.

“We are putting in observation posts in several locations up along the Syria border, northern Syria border, because we want to be the people who call the Turks and warn them if we see something coming out of an area that we’re operating in,” Mattis said.

The United States backs the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in its fight against the ISIS in Syria, while Turkey sees SDF’s armed forces, People’s Protection Units (YPG), as an extension of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has been fighting inside Turkey since 1984.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced last month that Turkey would begin a larger scale operation in the east of Euphrates River in Syria and the Turkish army started bombarding YPG barricades and positions.

The U.S. administration is wary that Turkey’s military operation against YPG forces can slow down the progress in fighting the ISIS.

“What this is designed to do is to make sure that the people we have fighting down in the (middle Euphrates River Valley) are not drawn off that fight, that we can crush what’s left of the geographic caliphate,” Mattis said, referring to the fight against ISIS.

Akar said that he discussed the issue with the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford during a meeting in Halifax, Canada last week.

“We told them during our meetings that the observation posts to be built by the United States along the Syrian border would negatively affect the perceptions in our country and would make people think that ‘the U.S. soldiers are somehow protecting YPG terrorists, providing shelter for them’,” Akar said. 

“I think that such practices can further complicate the already complicated situation in the region,” Turkish defence minister said adding that Turkish Armed Forces would take all necessary measures against cross-border risks. 

“We expect our U.S. allies to immediately cut their relations with the terrorist YPG, which is no different from the PKK,” Akar said. 

The U.S. State Department announced this month that it would be offering millions of dollars in rewards for information leading the identification or location of three PKK leaders. Ankara welcomed the move but called on Washington to adopt the same policy towards the YPG.