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14 Jan, 2018 18:17

‘Unacceptable’: Turkey slams US-led coalition’s new Syria ‘border force’ using Kurdish militias

The US-led coalition says it is helping to create a thousands-strong “Border Security Force” in Syria using Kurdish SDF militias. Washington's support, branded “unacceptable” by Ankara, is further straining bilateral ties.

Some 230 new recruits are already undergoing training in the “BSF’s inaugural class,” the Coalition’s Public Affairs Officer Colonel Thomas F. Veale told the Defense Post. The border force will be stationed along Kurdish-controlled parts of the Syrian border with Iraq and Turkey, as well as along the Euphrates River valley. It is estimated to reach a total strength of 30,000, according to the official.

Around half of the new unit will be comprised of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) veterans, while the other half is being recruited. “The base of the new force is essentially a realignment of approximately 15,000 members of the SDF to a new mission in the Border Security Force as their actions against ISIS [Islamic State] draw to a close,” the Coalition’s Public Affairs Office told Reuters in an email.

The move prompted discontent from one of Washington’s key NATO allies – Turkey. The catch here is that battle-hardened Kurdish YPG units – part of the SDF – are viewed by Ankara as an extension of the “terrorist” Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Continuous US support for the YPG has put a major strain on relations between the two states.

“The US, providing support to the PKK’s Syrian branch, PYD-YPG, on the grounds of ‘fighting ISIS,’ is taking some worrying steps to legitimize this terrorist [group] and make it lasting in the region,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Sunday, as quoted by NTV.

“It is absolutely not possible for this to be accepted,” the official added, stressing that Turkey “will continue its fight against any terrorist organization regardless of its name and shape within and outside its borders.”

The new border force is expected to be based on the territorial principle, as its members will “serve in areas close to their homes” in order to ensure that “the ethnic composition of the force will be relative to the areas in which they serve.” More Kurds will serve in the areas in northern Syria,” while Arab militias will be present “along the Euphrates River Valley and along the border with Iraq to the south,” according to the Coalition.

The plan to establish the unit has been also condemned by Russian officials, who claimed Washington is pursuing shadowy goals in the region. “There’s a clear equivocation here, I think it’s an obvious attempt to reanimate the militants, who can flow from neighboring states, namely Iraq,” said the deputy head of the State Duma’s defense committee Yuri Shvitkin. 

Creating such a “force” can help the Washington “to achieve their geopolitical goals, escalate tensions, and, probably, attempt to overthrow the legitimately elected president Bashar Assad,” the official stressed.

The US behavior in Syria, aimed at securing “their incomprehensible interests has already passed all the permissible limits of decency,” the defense committee’s head Vladimir Shamanov stated.

Such actions only put Ankara and Washington on a collision course, Huseyn Bagci, international relations professor at the Middle East Technical University, told RT. 

“I think this is one of the biggest problems for Turkish foreign security policy now, because the Americans will not leave the area,” Bagci said. “The Turkish-American cooperation, as the two NATO partners will have a new different dimension, where Turkey and America have totally different interests.”

“The more the Americans support the Kurds and the more Turkey consider them as a national security threat, I think there will be a collapse of the interests of the two NATO countries,” he added.