Mar 20 2018

U.S. should “compel” Turkey to cease Syria ops – U.S. senator

U.S. Senator Bob Corker released a statement on Monday criticising Turkey’s operation in the northwest Syrian area of Afrin, which he said had endangered the gains made by the United States and its allies in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).

“Turkey’s capture of Afrin puts our hard-fought gains against ISIS at risk by drawing our local partners away from that fight,” said the Republican senator, who chairs the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. “The administration should compel Turkey to stop its offensive against our partners and clearly state that no further interference in the campaign against ISIS will be tolerated.”

Turkey captured the city of Afrin last weekend after months of fighting against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia that had controlled the predominantly Kurdish area since the withdrawal of Syrian regime forces in 2012. Turkey saw the strong YPG presence on its border as a severe threat due to its links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed group that has been in conflict with Turkish armed forces for decades.

The United States, however, views the YPG and affiliated groups as a crucial part of the coalition to defeat ISIS in Syria, and has deployed troops to Manbij, an area east of Afrin that is controlled by YPG-affiliated groups.

Corker’s statement takes a distinctly hard line towards Turkey, after the State Department under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s conciliatory approach to mending relations with the country. His replacement, Mike Pompeo, has a hawkish reputation, leading to speculation as to whether the new secretary would harden the U.S. stance to Turkey.