World Bulletin / News Desk
U.S. support for the YPG-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) threatens to create a major rift between Turkey and the U.S., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee said Thursday.
During a tense exchange with Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Gen. Joseph Votel, Senator John McCain said he doubted the Donald Trump administration had a full grasp on the extent of Ankara's concerns regarding the group.
"Unless something changes, I foresee a train wreck here and I'm not sure that the administration recognizes how seriously particularly [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan views the threat that he views the Kurds pose," he said, referring to the YPG.
Turkey views the group as the Syrian branch of the PKK, which has been listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the U.S.
But Washington has not similarly labeled the YPG, and has supported it as part of the SDF in the effort to defeat ISIL, vexing Ankara.
Votel, who heads the U.S.' Middle East military command, said there has been a military and political effort to address Ankara's concerns, stressing that Turkey's contributions to the counter ISIL campaign are vital.
"We certainly understand what their interests are, and we understand their concerns about the partners that we are working with. Turkey is a vital partner in this effort here. We cannot do what we're doing without them," he said.
The U.S. has relied on the SDF, to carry out the ground campaign against ISIL in northern Syria, providing it with air power, as well as trainers and advisers.
Asked by Sen. Lindsey Graham about the YPG's "Marxist view of governing", Votel said "I think it's fair to say that there is some affinity back towards that.
Graham said: "So is it fair to say that we've got to be careful about over utilizing the YPG Kurds? Not only will it create problems for Turkey, other Kurds in the region don't buy into their agenda also.”
Votel responded: "I think it is important and that is why, as we look to a place like Raqqah, we are attempting to do that with the majority Arab forces."
In addition to the YPG, the SDF contains a variety of Arab, Christian and Turkmen fighters.
Responding to the recent deployment of Marines and heavy artillery to support the group's effort to wrest control of Raqqah from ISIL, Votel said the forces are there "to ensure that we had redundant capable fighters on the ground to support our partners.
"And ensure that we could take advantage of opportunities and ensure the continuing progress that we've been seeing," he added.
President Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail to "knock the hell out of" ISIL, saying he would put U.S. forces on the ground to take the fight to the terror group.
Votel maintained the forces were sent to Syria under the authority given to him by Trump. He said he was confident that alongside coalition air power, "that will help us" take Raqqa, ISIL's de facto capital.Güncelleme Tarihi: 10 Mart 2017, 14:17