‘Every Right to Defend Themselves’: US Appears to Greenlight Turkish Offensive
© AP Photo / Ghaith AlsayedSyria Turkey
© AP Photo / Ghaith Alsayed
After a Pentagon spokesman warned Turkey its strikes on Kurdish militias “threaten our shared goals,” Biden’s National Security Council coordinator conceded Ankara continues to “suffer a legitimate terrorist threat.”
A high-level Biden official appeared to contradict the Defense Department and signal some level of US support for ongoing anti-Kurdish military operations by Turkey during a press briefing on Tuesday.
John Kirby, coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, told reporters that “Turkey does continue to suffer a legitimate terrorist threat, particularly to their south,” and he seemed to validate the Turkish rationale for their ongoing offensive when he declared that “they certainly have every right to defend themselves and their citizens.”
But Kirby implied the US still has some reservations about the potential consequences of escalating hostilities, too.
“What concerns us about cross-border operations remains the same… that it might force a reaction by some of our SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] partners that would limit and constrain their ability to continue to fight against [Daesh* militants]."
SDF militias tended to be organized by largely-Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” (YPG), which the Turkish government considers to be an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that Ankara classifies as a terrorist group.
Turkey has reportedly struck dozens of targets in numerous air raids targeting military bases of Kurdish separatists in Syria and Iraq since launching “Operation Claw-Sword” on Sunday. The operation came in response to a terrorist bombing in downtown Istanbul last week which killed six people and wounded at least 80.
Ankara accused the PKK of carrying out the devastating attack, and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu went as far as accusing the US of complicity in the bombing, likening a rapid American statement of condolences to “a killer being first to show up at a crime scene.”
Since then, US officials had largely kept quiet about Turkey’s retaliation. But on Tuesday, a Pentagon spokesman reportedly warned Ankara against taking actions that might “destabilize Syria or violate Iraq's sovereignty,” telling Al Monitor that Turkey’s “actions threaten our shared goals” in the region, including the fight against ISIS.
The latest comments by a high-ranking member of the National Security Council seem to contradict such a view, however. But with less than 1,000 publicly-acknowledged troops on the ground currently, there’s likely not much the US could do to change the situation on the ground even if it wanted to.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organisation outlawed in Russia and many other states