Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder on Tuesday addressed concerns about a potential ground offensive in northern Syria by Turkish military forces, stating that the US has been clear about its position.
Previously, on Nov. 30, the Pentagon stated that a Turkish ground operation in Syria would “severely jeopardize” gains made in the war against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants and would destabilize the region.
Ankara blamed the İstanbul blast on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, as well as Kurdish militant groups in Syria, who all denied any role in the attack.
After the blast, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to launch an operation on the ground in Syria.
The US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), now the Kurds’ de facto army in northeast Syria, have played a key role in dislodging ISIL fighters from the territory they seized in the country.
Ankara strongly opposes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main element of the US-backed SDF, because of its links to PKK militants who have waged a long insurgency in southeastern Turkey.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, Ryder was asked if the Department of Defense would seek assurances from Turkey that it would be notified ahead of time if such an offensive were to take place. He stated that the department has been clear about its position on a potential military operation in northern Syria with Turkish allies and that it continues to monitor the situation.
Ryder added that the US’s focus in the region is on containing ISIL and that it will stay in close communication with Turkish allies on this front. The general said he hopes that US forces would not be placed in a situation that would jeopardize their safety and security.
Since 2016, Turkey has launched several incursions against Kurdish forces in northern Syria, resulting in control over areas along the border.