Only IS a target, not Kurds: US official tells Turkey
The only target for the US-led coalition is IS, and not the city of Manbij that has been cleared from IS by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Acting US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Elissa Slotkin, said

Turkish officials have warned they would attack the SDF forces in Manbij after they capture Syria’s northern city of al-Bab from IS.

“We are all about hitting IS where there is IS. If there’s no IS, that’s not our mandate,” Slotkin told reporters in Washington on Saturday. “So that is an important distinction. We have always made it in any kind of conversation we’ve been having with any ally on Syria,” she said.

According to ARA News the American official also denied that the US told Turkey that they will not provide support to the Turks in al-Bab, if the Turkey-backed rebels and Turkish soldiers attack Manbij.

“But I am not aware of any conditionality, any kind of quid-pro-quo,” she said. “We are having those conversations and there is support that’s being provided. Currently, liaison teams are working with the Turks every day.”

Turkey recently increased the number of its troops in Syria from 3,000 to 8,000 soldiers, after 14 Turkish soldiers were killed by IS near al-Bab.

“So obviously they’re having conversations about al-Bab, about strategy and approach. We have provided some ISR support on al-Bab. We have, in areas north of there, provided ground forces and the whole suite of air support,” Slotkin said. “So those are the kinds of things that we’re talking about sort of on an hourly basis with the Turks.”

The US official said there are now 50,000 SDF forces that fight IS in northern Syria. “That’s a big number and that is not the number it was a year ago. And the theory of the case that as you liberate new areas for IS, people did not like living under IS and they volunteer,” she said.

“So we have seen that borne out, and even since the Manbij operations, frankly, we’ve seen a significantly larger number of Arabs come into the fight [side by side with the Kurds]. So I think it’s about 50 percent at this point is sort of Arab-Turkoman, the whole host of other folks besides the Kurds, and I think that’s a pretty healthy number given the importance of the coming fight in Raqqa, which is an Arab town,” she stated.

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs further said that the United States would support agreements between Russia and Turkey on Syria. “I think that’s a positive thing. Anything that helps promote transparency and safety is better than not.”

News Code: 15059  |  Date: 2017/01/16  |  Time: 13 : 42

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