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1-min read

US 'Deeply Concerned' by Turkish Strikes in Syria, Iraq

The strikes underscore the delicate political tightrope the United States is treading in Syria -- and to a lesser extent in Iraq -- where it is relying heavily on Kurdish forces to conduct the ground fight against the Islamic State group.

AFP

Updated:April 26, 2017, 7:53 AM IST
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US 'Deeply Concerned' by Turkish Strikes in Syria, Iraq
File photo of Mark Toner. (Photo: Reuters)
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Washington: The United States is "deeply concerned" by Turkish air strikes that reportedly killed more than two dozen Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria, the State Department said on Wednesday.

The strikes underscore the delicate political tightrope the United States is treading in Syria -- and to a lesser extent in Iraq -- where it is relying heavily on Kurdish forces to conduct the ground fight against the Islamic State group.

"We are very concerned, deeply concerned that Turkey conducted air strikes earlier on Wednesday in northern Syria as well as northern Iraq without proper coordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition to defeat" IS, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

"We have expressed those concerns to the government of Turkey directly." Turkey is a key US ally and a NATO member, so America must be careful not to alienate its partner and risk losing Ankara's support for the anti-IS fight and access to Turkey's vital Incirlik airbase.

Turkey said it had carried out the strikes in northeastern Syria and northern Iraq against "terrorist havens" and vowed to continue action against groups it links to the outlawed Kurdistan's Workers' Party (PKK).

US commandos are working with local Kurds on the ground, much to the fury of Turkey, which sees the Kurdish YPG forces as a terrorist offshoot of the PKK that has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.

"This is a very complex battle space. We're cognizant of that," Toner said. "We are also cognizant of the threat that the PKK poses to Turkey... But these kinds of actions frankly harm the coalition's efforts to go after ISIS."

The Pentagon offered a more muted response. "We don't want our partners hitting other partners," a senior US defense official told AFP. "We've got to figure out exactly who got hit. We don't know yet. We do know where the strikes were, but we don't know exactly who is dead."

The United States is counting on the SDF, a Syrian Arab- Kurdish alliance, to push into the IS bastion of Raqa in Syria, and is currently weighing whether to provide the Kurdish faction with heavy weaponry and other materiel.

| Edited by: Swati Sharma
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