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Pentagon backtracks on Syria border force

The Pentagon, USA [File photo]
The Pentagon, USA [File photo]

The Pentagon backpedaled Tuesday on the purpose of some funding under its 2019 fiscal year budget, saying it would be spent on securing the border between Jordan and Lebanon instead of the Iraq-Syria border, Anadolu reports.

Earlier in the day, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway told Anadolu Agency that the US-led anti-Daesh coalition would establish security on the Iraq-Syria border, including spending $250 million to train and equip the PYD/PKK-led SDF as a border protection force.

But Rankine-Galloway later changed his statement.

“In the second paragraph of my note below, my response was written in such a way that inadvertently implied that $250 million was being requested for US-supported partners in Syria,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“In fact, the $250 million is requested to provide border security support to the governments of Jordan and Lebanon, not for partner forces in Syria.”

Rankine-Galloway’s earlier remarks follow a story from Anadolu Agency on a proposal in the US Department of Defense’s 2019 fiscal year budget aimed at funding a border security force under the PYD/PKK-led SDF as part of its counter-Daesh campaign.

The Pentagon has denied the US is enabling such a border security force. It was revealed that the Defense Department is seeking to allocate the money for “border security requirements” in Syria.

Read: US-led coalition destroys Russian tank in Syria

Also, the department’s Leading Inspector General report for October-December 2017 disclosed last week revealed that the PYD/PKK-led SDF has begun training a border security force, internal security force and explosive hazard reduction specialists.

Contradicted by the US government documents, the Pentagon is now making efforts to avert further tensions with its NATO ally, Turkey, which opposes US support to the PYD/PKK under the name SDF.

“The most pressing border security need is on the Iraq-Syria border, where [Daesh] fighters were previously able to move with impunity,” Rankine-Galloway had explained.

He said the US is going to “identify any gaps in border security” in Syria and provide support to deal with those gaps, noting the U.S. continues to train local forces. But he denied it was a regular army or conventional border guard force.

Read: US dismisses fears of wider war after deadly Syria clashes

Anadolu Agency was the first to report that the PYD/PKK-led SDF is creating a border security force in Syria. The story was later confirmed by coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon and caused significant tensions between Ankara and Washington.

The PKK, designated a terror group by Turkey, the US and the EU, has waged a decades-long terror campaign in Turkey that has killed more than 40,000 people.

The terror group continues its armed campaign alongside its extension in Syria, the PYD.

Rankine-Galloway also touched on the Pentagon’s request for $300 million for a train and equip program in Syria.

“Train and equip funding is designated to secure and defend territory previously controlled by [Daesh],” he said.

Europe & RussiaIraqJordanLebanonMiddle EastNewsSyriaTurkey
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