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US-led coalition helps build new Syrian force, angering Turkey

Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters carry their weapons in a village on the outskirts of al-Shadadi town, Hasaka countryside, Syria 19 February, 2016 [Rodi Said/Reuters]
Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters carry their weapons in a village on the outskirts of al-Shadadi town, Hasaka countryside, Syria [Rodi Said/Reuters]

The US-led coalition is working with its Syrian militia allies to set up a new border force of 30,000 personnel, the coalition said on Sunday, a move that has added to Turkish anger over US support for Kurdish-dominated forces in Syria.

A senior Turkish official told Reuters the US training of the new “Border Security Force” is the reason that the US charge d’affaires was summoned in Ankara on Wednesday. The official did not elaborate.

The force, whose inaugural class is currently being trained, will be deployed at the borders of the area controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – an alliance of militias in northern and eastern Syria dominated by the Kurdish YPG.

In an email to Reuters, the coalition’s Public Affairs Office confirmed details of the new force reported by The Defense Post. About half the force will be SDF veterans, and recruiting for the other half is underway, the coalition’s Public Affairs Office said.

The force will deploy along the border with Turkey to the north, the Iraqi border to the southeast, and along the Euphrates River Valley, which broadly acts as the dividing line separating the US-backed SDF and Syrian government forces backed by Iran and Russia.

US support for the SDF has put enormous strain on ties with NATO ally Turkey, which views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a group that has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.

Read: US to maintain military presence in Syria ‘as long as necessary’

Syria’s main Kurdish groups have emerged as one of the few winners of the Syrian war, and are working to entrench their autonomy over swathes of northern Syria.

Washington opposes those autonomy plans, even as it has backed the SDF, the main partner for the US-led coalition against Daesh in Syria.

The coalition said the BSF would operate under SDF command and around 230 individuals were currently undergoing training in its inaugural class.

“Efforts are taken to ensure individuals serve in areas close to their homes. Therefore, the ethnic composition of the force will be relative to the areas in which they serve.

“More Kurds will serve in the areas in northern Syria. More Arabs will serve in areas along the Euphrates River Valley and along the border with Iraq to the south,” the coalition’s Public Affairs Office said.

Read: Russia and EU disagree over Syria reconstruction

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