The US Defense Department has condemned Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria, saying Washington is “greatly disappointed” by the Turkish incursion.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the US had not abandoned its Syrian Kurdish allies to a Turkish military onslaught despite Washington giving Ankara the green light to launch the incursion earlier this week.
Following a phone conversation between President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said Sunday, “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into northern Syria.”
The White House also said US troops would withdraw from the border between Turkey and Syria and wouldn’t be involved in the offensive.
However, Esper said, “Nobody green-lighted this operation by Turkey, just the opposite. We pushed back very hard at all levels for the Turks not to commence this operation.”
“To be clear,” Esper noted “We are not abandoning our Kurdish partner forces, and US troops remain with them in other parts of Syria. The impulsive action of President Erdogan to invade northern Syria has put the United States in a tough situation.”
The decision to withdraw the US troops, he added, “was made to ensure American troops were not caught up in the fighting between Turkish and Kurdish forces.”
Esper and Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said they had talked with their Turkish counterparts repeatedly in recent days, urging them to halt their ongoing offensive. However, there has not been an indication Turkey would do so, they added.
“I’m not seeing any indication or warnings of any planned stoppage of their military activity,” said Milley, the top US military officer.
Since the beginning of the Turkish invasion on Wednesday, at least 10 civilians along with least 29 Kurdish militants have been killed, according to the Observatory. Another six fighters belonging to armed groups led by Turkey have also been reported killed.
The Turkish Defense Ministry confirmed on Friday that it had lost one soldier and that another three had been injured, marking Turkey’s first confirmed casualties since it began the incursion.
Ankara seeks to create a “safe zone” stretching about 120 kilometers south of the Turkish border and 30 kilometers deep into the Kurdish-controlled region in northern Syria.
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