US warns Turkey against disrupting anti-jihadist mission in Syria

The United States on Friday warned Turkey not to disrupt operations by US and Kurdish forces against jihadists in Syria, while acknowledging Ankara’s security concerns in the volatile region, Agence-France Presse reported.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Turkish bombing of Kurdish-controlled areas in northeast Syria continues.

The Turkish government says it is taking military action in response to a terrorist attack in İstanbul that it blames on Kurdish groups. The Kurds deny responsibility.

“They continue to conduct airstrikes,” Kirby said, adding there was no evidence yet of a threatened ground operation across the Turkish-Syrian border, where US troops deploy alongside the Kurdish-led SDF force.

Kirby said that while “Turkey does have a right to defend itself,” the operations carry a heavy risk.

“We recognize their legitimate security concerns to defend themselves,” he said.

“What we don’t want to see are operations in Syria that, again, could cause civilian casualties, could cause casualties of our personnel and could distract our SDF partners from a very real and very important mission ongoing against ISIS,” he added, using an acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL).

Washington does not “want to see anything that would affect our ability to continue to put the pressure” on ISIL, Kirby said.

He noted that the “strategic level” of cooperation with SDF forces was not in danger.

However, Turkish offensives against the SDF meant the Kurdish forces would typically be “less willing to continue to contributing to counter ISIS” on a day-to-day basis.

“That is a concern,” he said.

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