US praises SDF forces in Syria, calls Turkey ‘great partner’

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SDF fighters in eastern Raqqa. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

Top US General Joseph Votel on Saturday praised the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against ISIS extremists in Syria. Vote also called Turkey “a great partner”.

“There is the great question of, you know, you’ve got the Turks involved there, you’ve got the Kurds involved there but they don’t get along,” Congressman Smith said, addressing General Votel. “When we’re trying to figure out what our coalition is in Syria, particularly going after Raqqa, how are we currently deciding the issue between the Turks and the Kurds?” he asked.

In response, US General Joseph Votel said that Turkey has an ongoing relationship with the US-led coalition.

“There’s engagement up the high political level that is taking place,” Votel said. “From the CENTCOM standpoint, we have been working in conjunction with European Command, we have increased our interaction in Ankara to ensure that there is good visibility on the things that we are doing.”

“And we certainly recognize Turkey’s interests and concerns with this. They’re a great partner here, and we couldn’t do many of the things we’re doing without them,” he added. “That said, the most effective force that we have right now in Syria is the Syrian Democratic forces that consist of both Kurds and Arabs, Turkmen, and in some cases, some Christian organizations,” he stated.

In the meantime, Colonel Joseph Scrocca, the coalition’s Public Affairs Director said that Turkey ending the Euphrates Shield operation in Northern Syria was not done in consultation with the coalition.

“We heard about it. We have folks — and they told us about it. We have folks that are working very closely,” Colonel Scrocca said. “We have folks in Turkey, in Ankara, that are working with the Turks. You’ve got to remember, Turkey is also a very important member of this coalition,” he added.

“We have Turkish officers right here in this headquarters that I speak to every day. So, whether it’s always done in coordination with us, but we’re aware of it,” he said.

According to analysts, the Pentagon prefers the SDF over Turkey.

“The U.S. military is running the counter-ISIS campaign in Syria, and driving decision making in Washington. The military prefers to work through the SDF which it created, than rely on Turkey,” Nicholas A. Heras, Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), told ARA News

“Turkey will get dealt into the process only if the U.S. military assesses that there is need for Turkey’s conventional forces, not Turkish Syrian proxies, to wage the Raqqa operation. At this time, the U.S. military has decided that Turkey is not needed for conquering Raqqa,” Heras said.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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