During a visit to Tokyo, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper warned that any Turkish operation in northern Syria would be “unacceptable;” and while stopping short of guaranteeing the protection of Washington’s Kurdish partners – Esper underscored America’s resolve to prevent unilateral incursions.
The comments by the U.S. Defense Secretary came in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s declared intention to launch a wide-scale military operation in an SDF-controlled area, east of the Euphrates river in northeastern Syria. The SDF, short for the Syrian Democratic Forces, is an alliance of local Syrian militias, which served the United States as its ground force in the battle against the Islamic State.
Turkey, however, views the SDF’s most powerful Kurdish militia, the YPG, as an extension of the PKK – thus designating it a terrorist organization. That said, Washington does not share Ankara’s position.
Meanwhile, the London-based Reuters news agency reported that “A team from the Pentagon was in Turkey to speak with Turkish officials about the issue,” while Secretary Esper voiced hope that an agreement could be reached with Ankara.”