Turkey's presidential spokesman says US training of Syrian border force including YPG militia is a worrying step and unacceptable.

File photo shows members of the US-backed SDF, that is a YPG-dominated alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters in Syria.
File photo shows members of the US-backed SDF, that is a YPG-dominated alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters in Syria. ( AFP Archive )

The US-led coalition is working with its Syrian militia allies to set up a new border force of 30,000 personnel, the coalition said on Sunday, a move that has added to Turkish anger over US support for YPG militants in Syria.

A senior Turkish official told Reuters the US training of the "Border Security Force" is the reason that the US charge d'affaires was summoned in Ankara on Wednesday. The official did not elaborate.

The force, whose inaugural class is currently being trained, will be deployed at the borders of the area controlled by the SDF - an alliance of militias in northern and eastern Syria dominated by the YPG.

Turkey's presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said on Sunday Ankara serves its right to respond to terrorism in whatever way it seems necessary.

He also added that US training of Syrian border force including YPG militia is a worrying step and unacceptable.

TRT World's Ben Said has this report.

In an email to Reuters, the coalition's Public Affairs Office confirmed details of the new force reported by The Defense Post. About half the force will be SDF veterans, and recruiting for the other half is underway, the coalition's Public Affairs Office said.

The force will deploy along the border with Turkey to the north, the Iraqi border to the southeast, and along the Euphrates River Valley, which broadly acts as the dividing line separating the US-backed SDF and Syrian regime forces backed by Iran and Russia.

US support for the SDF has put enormous strain on ties with NATO ally Turkey, which views the YPG as an extension of the PKK, that is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU. 

The PKK has waged an armed campaign against Turkish state since 1984. Some 40,000 people have been killed in the clashes mainly concentrated in Turkey's southeast, as well as various attacks elsewhere in the country.

Turkey has repeatedly said it would not tolerate terror organisations such as the YPG forming a corridor in northern Syria along Turkey’s borders and its foreign ministry issued this statement in response to the development.

The Turkish military has also ramped up its presence and activities along the Turkey-Syria border following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's call on PKK/YPG militants in the Afrin district of Syria's Aleppo province to surrender.

Despite Turkey’s objections, the US has continuously provided YPG and its affiliated groups with arms, calling it an ally in the fight against Daesh, but ignoring its internationally recognised status as a terrorist group.

File photo shows US Army vehicles being driven north of Manbij city, in Syria's Aleppo.
File photo shows US Army vehicles being driven north of Manbij city, in Syria's Aleppo. ( Reuters Archive )

US Defense Chief Ash Carter had admitted in April 2016 that the PYD and YPG are linked to the PKK.

The head of the US special forces in 2015 had also urged the YPG to "rebrand" itself to avoid Turkish criticism and give the group a role in Syria's future. The PKK-linked group was then renamed the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), General Raymond Thomas said in July 2017.

The coalition said on Sunday, the "BSF" would operate under SDF command and around 230 individuals were currently undergoing training in its inaugural class.

"Efforts are taken to ensure individuals serve in areas close to their homes. Therefore, 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. More Arabs will serve in areas along the Euphrates River Valley and along the border with Iraq to the south," the coalition's Public Affairs Office said.

"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 Daesh draw to a close," it said.

"They will be providing border security through professionally securing checkpoints and conducting counter-IED operations," it said, adding that coalition and SDF forces were still engaging Daesh pockets in Deir Ezzor province. IED stands for improvised explosive device.

On Wednesday, Syrian Observatory For Human Rights stated that SDF released more than 400 Daesh members including commanders, who were brought from the countryside surrounding the eastern city of Deir Ezzor and northeastern city of Hasakah.

"SOHR monitored that more than 120 members of them have joined the SDF," the monitor also said.

A former spokesperson for the YPG group, Talal Silo, who defected from the SDF and is now in Turkey had said the group was "just a name" that provided cover for the US to support the YPG.

Silo had also explained how the PKK-terrorist dominated force was formed and how the US made a controversial deal to allow Daesh militants to leave the city of Raqqa before it taken over by the US-backed forces.

Source: Reuters