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US affirms right of Turkiye to defend itself, urges restraint in northern Syria

November 29, 2022 at 4:20 pm

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby on November 3, 2021 [Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]

The United States has reaffirmed Turkiye’s right to defend itself and strengthen its national security, amid concerns over Turkish strikes on Kurdish militias in northern Syria, and a looming Turkish military intervention.

Speaking to reporters at a briefing yesterday, US National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby, stated that “Turkiye continues to fall victim to terrorist attacks, whether it’s near that [Syrian] border or elsewhere in the country, and they have a right to defend themselves and their citizens against these attacks.”

Since the terrorist attack in Istanbul that killed six people and injured 81 earlier this month, Ankara responded with an aerial campaign against targets belonging to the Kurdish militant groups in northern Syria, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). In retaliation, they launched rocket attacks on Turkiye’s south-eastern region, killing two and injuring 14 others.

According to Turkish authorities, those militias are directly linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – designated a terrorist group by Turkiye, the US and European Union (EU) – which the government accuses of planning and executing the Istanbul terror attack.

While some have claimed that Ankara made that accusation as an excuse to launch a military intervention in northern Syria, Turkiye’s accusation is primarily based on the connections the bomber had with other individuals reportedly directly connected with YPG and PKK, which were discovered after a series of arrests by Turkish security services.

Although Kirby expressed Washington’s acknowledgement that the country has suffered from cross-border and internal terror attacks, he urged restraint and stressed that “we don’t want to see actions, particularly inside Syria, that are going to lead to the potential for more casualties, more loss of innocent life, and any diminution from our efforts, a distraction away from our efforts, because we have troops in Syria, to go after ISIS [Daesh]”.

Kirby added that officials in Washington “also don’t want to see the actions inside Syria by Turkiye or anyone else that could put American lives at risk because there are Americans on the ground in there helping the SDF,” referring to the US military’s alliance with and assistance to the Kurdish militias in the name of combating Daesh. That assistance has long angered Ankara, which sees it as directly helping designated terrorists and threatening Turkish national security.

Amid the Turkish government’s warnings of an impending new military operation in northern Syria and its ongoing airstrikes on militia targets, the Pentagon last week expressed concern over the aerial campaign, reiterating the claim that they pose a threat to US personnel and harmed the fight against Daesh. Turkiye’s Defence Minister, Hulusi Akar, however, assured that his military would “never harm the coalition forces or civilians” in northern Syria.

READ: Turkiye rejects US condolences over Istanbul bombing