Most 'US-backed Kurds' now east of Euphrates: US
"U.S.-backed Kurdish forces" have lived up to their commitment to Washington to move east of the Euphrates River, the U.S.’ Middle East commander said Tuesday.

"The Kurds for the most part, the portion of the Kurds that are part of the SDF, are on the east side of the Euphrates River at this time,” CENTCOM commander Army Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters at the Pentagon, referring to the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

"They have lived up to their commitment to us,” he added.

The comments come as Turkey continues its military operation in Syria. Operation Euphrates Shield began early Aug. 24 with the stated goal of clearing Turkey’s southern border of terror groups and enhancing border security.

Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian affiliate of the PKK terror group and has targeted the group south of Syria’s Jarabulus.

While the U.S. has also designated the PKK as a terrorist organization, it does not share Turkey’s assessment of the YPG and has relied heavily upon it to combat Daesh in Syria.

The U.S. has urged Turkey to refrain from targeting the group, stressing that the focus should be on Daesh.

Votel said the U.S. is "very much in favor” of Turkey’s operations along its border, calling them "extremely important and welcome”, but added that "infighting” among coalition partners is "not helpful.

"It is most important for us to continue to keep the SDF and our Turkish partners and other coalition partners focused on ISIL at this particular point,” he said.

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said that the U.S. welcomes an "overnight calm" between the "Turkish military and other counter-ISIL forces in Syria.

"The United States continues to encourage these moves as a way to prevent further hostilities and loss of life between all counter-ISIL forces operating in the area," Earnest said.

Asked if he thought the counter-Daesh campaign could fulfill its objectives with the YPG staying east of the Euphrates, Votel replied: "Yes, I do believe we can."

Washington has embedded special operators with the SDF to train and advise the group during the anti-Daesh campaign.

A mid-August Syrian airstrike near U.S. forces in Hasakah prompted Washington to scramble jets in their defense, warning Russia and Syria that it will take "whatever action is necessary”.

Votel brushed aside potential concerns of U.S. forces advising the SDF coming under fire from Turkey. "Our coordination and our situational awareness with Turkish led-forces is good, and that was not an immediate concern for me,” he said.

"They know very well where we are,” he added.

Last Modified: 2016-08-31 08:40:52
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