Pentagon claims it’s not abandoning Kurds, admits it won’t help them
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Friday the US is not abandoning its Kurdish allies who are now under attack from Turkey’s military offensive into Syria, even as he made clear the US will not intervene in the fight.
“We are not abandoning our Kurdish partner forces and US troops remain with them in other parts of Syria,” the defense secretary said in remarks to reporters at the Pentagon. Esper delivered his remarks shortly before the administration announced it would give the Treasury Department the authority to hit Turkey with significant sanctions — but wouldn’t be using them just yet.
“We remain in close coordination with the Syrian Democratic Forces who helped us destroy the physical caliphate of ISIS, but I will not place American service members in the middle of a longstanding conflict between the Turks and the Kurds, this is not why we are in Syria,” Esper said.
The defense secretary said that the US was urging Turkey to forgo its operation and instead address its concerns through the development of a security zone along the border. Previous efforts to establish such a zone, which involved the US convincing the Kurds to dismantle their defensive fortifications and withdraw their fighters from the border with Turkey, collapsed after Ankara launched its incursion.
Esper also said the US would continue to work with the 80 members of the Defeat ISIS coalition and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to ensure the defeat of ISIS, despite the fact that SDF and US officials have told CNN that the SDF has been forced to suspend its counter-ISIS campaign due to the Turkish offensive.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at the Pentagon Friday that the remaining 1,000 US troops in Syria were still relying on the SDF to protect therm.
“We’re asking them to continue their partnership with us and continue their — a lot of it is force protection of our forces…we’re encouraging them not to over react,” Milley said.