U.S.-led coalition helps build new Syrian force, angering Turkey

From Reuters - January 14, 2018

BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The U.S.-led coalition is working with its Syrian militia allies to set up a new border force of 30,000 personnel, the coalition said on Sunday, a move that has added to Turkish anger over U.S. support for Kurdish-dominated forces in Syria.

A senior Turkish official told Reuters the U.S. training of the new Border Security Force is the reason that the U.S. charge daffaires was summoned in Ankara on Wednesday. The official did not elaborate.

The force, whose inaugural class is currently being trained, will be deployed at the borders of the area controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - an alliance of militias in northern and eastern Syria dominated by the Kurdish YPG.

In an email to Reuters, the coalitions Public Affairs Office confirmed details of the new force reported by The Defense Post. About half the force will be SDF veterans, and recruiting for the other half is underway, the coalitions Public Affairs Office said.

The force will deploy along the border with Turkey to the north, the Iraqi border to the southeast, and along the Euphrates River Valley, which broadly acts as the dividing line separating the U.S.-backed SDF and Syrian government forces backed by Iran and Russia.

U.S. support for the SDF has put enormous strain on ties with NATO ally Turkey, which views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) - a group that has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.

Syrias main Kurdish groups have emerged as one of the few winners of the Syrian war, and are working to entrench their autonomy over swathes of northern Syria.

Washington opposes those autonomy plans, even as it has backed the SDF, the main partner for the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Syria.

The coalition said the BSF would operate under SDF command and around 230 individuals were currently undergoing training in its inaugural class.


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