US weapons in hands of YPG re­main a grave con­cern

Now that Amer­i­can troops will with­draw from north­ern Syria, the ques­tion of what will hap­pen to the weapons sent by the U.S. to the YPG needs an ur­gent an­swer. As the ques­tion gets louder, YPG ter­ror­ists this week killed two FSA mem­bers with Amer­i­can anti

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - ANKARA - DAILY SABAH

WITH the U.S. de­ci­sion to with­draw from war-torn Syria, the fu­ture of the heavy weapons pro­vided to the PKK-linked Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG) by Wash­ing­ton emerges as one of the most crit­i­cal is­sues that needs to be ad­dressed. The ter­ror­ist group’s pres­ence on the Turk­ish bor­der poses grave se­cu­rity threats to the coun­try and needs to be re­solved ur­gently. Dur­ing the fight against Daesh, the U.S. opted for part­ner­ing with the YPG de­spite its NATO ally’s se­cu­rity con­cerns, and pro­vided truck­loads of weapons to the ter­ror­ist group. Cur­rently, the U.S. is pre­par­ing to leave Syria, in an abrupt de­ci­sion un­der­taken re­cently, and the ques­tion of what will hap­pen to the weapons given to the ter­ror­ist group in a highly un­sta­ble re­gion like Syria hangs in the air since at­tacks by the YPG, us­ing these weapons, con­tinue. In the lat­est move, the YPG tar­geted the Turk­ish-backed Free Syr­ian Army (FSA) on Thurs­day in the Kaljib­rin vil­lage of the north­west­ern Syr­ian town of Azaz with Amer­i­can-made anti-tank TOW mis­siles. The ter­ror­ists tar­geted the pa­trolling FSA troops early in the morn­ing, which caused the death of two fighters. On Wed­nes­day, the YPG also tar­geted the same re­gion; no ca­su­al­ties or in­juries were re­ported from that at­tack.

THE PRES­ENCE of these weapons has caused worry in Ankara, threat­en­ing the sta­bil­ity of north­ern Syr­ian ar­eas that were lib­er­ated from Daesh dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Euphrates Shield and Op­er­a­tion Olive Branch. There are also other se­ri­ous pos­si­ble threats to Tur­key with of­fi­cials con­cerned about the pos­si­bil­ity of the trans­fer of these U.S.-made weapons to south­east Tur­key through the bor­der con­trolled by the YPG to be used against the Turk­ish army by PKK ter­ror­ists.

So far, many in­ci­dents have proven the va­lid­ity of these con­cerns as an am­ple num­ber of U.S.-made weapons have been found in PKK caves and mil­i­tary de­pots dur­ing Turk­ish mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the south­east.

In re­cent years, U.S.-made rock­ets, an­ti­air­craft weapons, heavy ma­chine guns and M-16 ri­fles were seized, par­tic­u­larly in the Kato Moun­tain lo­cated in Tur­key’s bor­der prov­ince of Hakkari dur­ing anti-ter­ror op­er­a­tions against PKK ter­ror­ists.

Also, re­ports had suggested that arms and am­mu­ni­tion given to the YPG were smug­gled across Turk­ish bor­ders, through the Amanos Moun­tains near Tur­key’s south­ern prov­ince of Hatay, aim­ing to help the PKK’s do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism ac­tiv­i­ties, specif­i­cally against tourism near the Aegean re­gion. The Turk­ish army cut off this road for de­liv­ery af­ter Op­er­a­tion Olive Branch in Afrin last year.

The de­liv­ery of arms and equip­ment to the YPG, which is still poi­son­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween the two NATO al­lies, be­gan in 2014 and in­ten­si­fied in sub­se­quent years.

22,000 TRUCK­LOADS OF ARMS GIVEN TO YPG BY U.S.

Some 22,000 truck­loads of arms and am­mu­ni­tion have been given to the YPG so far. Some of the arms in­clude cruise mis­siles, Anti-Tank Guided Mis­siles (ATGM) and shoul­der-launched sur­face to air mis­siles (MAN­PADS).

The U.S. promised Tur­key that it would take back the weapons fol­low­ing the de­feat of Daesh. Yet, Ankara doubts that Wash­ing­ton will keep its word since Daesh has been sub­stan­tially de­feated and the U.S. has not halted its stead­fast sup­port of the YPG ter­ror­ist group. Tak­ing back weapons from the YPG and the fight against ter­ror­ist groups, in­clud­ing Daesh, were also dis­cussed in a re­cent meet­ing last week be­tween Turk­ish Na­tional De­fense Min­is­ter Gen. Hu­lusi Akar and U.S. Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dun­ford with the at­ten­dance of Turk­ish Chief of Gen­eral Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler in the cap­i­tal Ankara.

The Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense said in a state­ment that dur­ing the meet­ing Akar re­it­er­ated that Tur­key was de­ter­mined to take any mea­sures needed for its bor­der se­cu­rity and re­gional sta­bil­ity. Akar also said the Turk­ish Armed Forces are fight­ing against the PKK/ YPG and Daesh, not its Kur­dish broth­ers in the re­gion. He added that Tur­key has al­ways re­spected the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of both Syria and Iraq.

As the U.S. has been long drag­ging its feet in al­lay­ing the con­cerns of Tur­key to take back the weapons from the YPG, Ankara strongly stressed that it will not re­main un­fazed in the face of se­ri­ous ter­ror threats. Prior to the U.S.’ de­ci­sion to with­draw its 2,000 troops from Syria, Ankara was very close to launch­ing an op­er­a­tion east of the Euphrates. Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan un­der­lined dur­ing that time that Tur­key would be care­ful to avoid harm­ing U.S. sol­diers on the ground, con­vey­ing Tur­key’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to tar­get the ter­ror­ist group.

When U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump firstly an­nounced the de­ci­sion to with­draw, he sig­naled an im­me­di­ate with­drawal. How­ever, now he has pointed to a slower process. The shift­ing re­marks and mixed mes­sages have raised ques­tions on whether the U.S. has a plan in place. The elu­sive plan of U.S. with­drawal might fur­ther com­pli­cate de­vel­op­ments in Syria.

The an­nounce­ment by Trump has also faced crit­i­cism in the U.S. The tim­ing of the with­drawal was con­sid­ered as “wrong” by some ar­gu­ing that Daesh might come back. The move also prompted U.S. De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis to quit.

RUS­SIA: U.S. WANTS TO STAY IN SYRIA DE­SPITE WITH­DRAWAL DE­CI­SION

There have been many dif­fer­ent re­ac­tions to the U.S.’ mixed moves. Ac­cord­ingly, Rus­sia’s For­eign Min­istry said on Fri­day it had the im­pres­sion that the U.S. wanted to stay in Syria de­spite the an­nounce­ment of the with­drawal of U.S. troops, the RIA news agency re­ported.

The com­ments com­ing from the U.S. that it would like to con­tinue pro­tect­ing the YPG af­ter its pull­out have raised eye­brows in Ankara.

Prior to his visit to Ankara last week, Trump’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton said last Sun­day that the U.S. mil­i­tary with­drawal from north­east­ern Syria is con­di­tioned on de­feat­ing the rem­nants of the Daesh ter­ror­ist group, and on Tur­key as­sur­ing the safety of fighters al­lied with the United States – the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces (SDF), which is dom­i­nated by YPG ter­ror­ists. Sim­i­lar re­marks also come from the U.S. warn­ing Tur­key to not “slaugh­ter” Kurds. The com­ments faced back­lash from Ankara stress­ing that the YPG is a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion and does not rep­re­sent the Kurds. Bolton also said on Fri­day that Tur­key-U.S. mil­i­tary talks will con­tinue next week. He added that he hopes the talks with Tur­key “will pro­duce re­sults that are ac­cept­able to both sides.” Bolton un­der­scored that it is “crit­i­cally im­por­tant that we do not al­low the sit­u­a­tion in Syria to de­te­ri­o­rate.”

More­over, a del­e­ga­tion led by Turk­ish Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Se­dat Önal will travel to the U.S. on Feb. 5. to dis­cuss the with­drawal.

Mean­while, the U.S.-led coali­tion against Daesh be­gan the process of with­draw­ing from Syria, a spokesman said on Fri­day, in­di­cat­ing the start of a U.S. pull­out. Yet, the of­fi­cials avoided giv­ing specifics about the U.S.’ plan.

Col. Sean Ryan said that the coali­tion “has be­gun the process of our de­lib­er­ate with­drawal from Syria. Out of con­cern for op­er­a­tional se­cu­rity, we will not dis­cuss spe­cific time­lines, lo­ca­tions or troop move­ments.”

TUR­KEY CON­TIN­UES PREPA­RA­TIONS FOR OP­ER­A­TION

In the face of Wash­ing­ton’s un­clear ob­jec­tives and its with­drawal plan, Ankara has stressed that an op­er­a­tion east of the Euphrates does not de­pend on the with­drawal of the U.S. High-level of­fi­cials stressed that Ankara would not shy away from tak­ing steps to en­sure its na­tional se­cu­rity. “We have Man­bij, and the east of the Euphrates ahead. The nec­es­sary plan­ning was made re­gard­ing this. Our prepa­ra­tion con­tin­ues in­tensely,” Akar said on Fri­day while in­spect­ing troops near the bor­der with Syria. “We have no prob­lems with our Kur­dish broth­ers, Arab broth­ers in Syria, Turk­mens or other eth­nic and re­li­gious groups. Our only tar­gets are ter­ror­ists Daesh and YPG,” he added.

YPG mil­i­tants and U.S. troops dur­ing a pa­trol near the Turk­ish bor­der in Hasakah, Nov. 4.

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