In Syria US-Backed Rebels Are Fighting … Other US-Backed Rebels

Turkish troops return from the Syrian border in Karkamis Turkey Saturday Aug. 27 2016. Turkey on Wednesday sent tanks across the border to help Syrian rebels retake the key Islamic State-held town of Jarablus and to contain the expansion of Syria

"If this turns now into a massive fight between the Turkish army or Turkish-backed forces and the YPG without any understanding that Turkey is going to step in and assume a much larger role against ISIS, it's obviously going to be cause of real new tensions between the United States and Turkey", he warned.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Turkey-backed rebels have captured 21 towns and villages near Jarablus from the Syria Democratic Forces.

However, Kurdish-backed forces later said they will only pull back south from their current positions, in order not to put the lives of civilians in danger following attacks by Turkey-backed Syrian rebels.

Turkish-backed forces pushed deeper into northern Syria on Monday, advancing toward the city of Manbij, which was recently freed from the Islamic State group by a Kurdish-Arab force-a push that has drawn rebuke from Turkey's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, the United States, which said it was concerned the battle had shifted away from targeting the extremist group. They have been clashing with Kurdish Syrian forces around the town to try to halt their advance.

Ankara says it is clearing both IS and the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) from the border region. It leaves Washington in the tough spot of having to choose between two allies, and is likely to divert resources from the fight against IS.

But the Kurdish fighters are backed by the U.S. They work together with American special forces, and we've seen them up close stripping away territory from ISIS.

But not everyone in Washington lays the blames the USA side for the new tension - some point to the Erdogan government's ambivalence in the fight against Islamist extremism and anti-American tone.

"We want to make clear that we find these clashes - in areas where [ISIS] is not located - unacceptable and a source of deep concern", McGurk said. Operations would continue until all threats, including from the YPG, were removed, he added.

McGurk said the Pentagon has condemned the fighting south of the Syrian town of Jarablus and said US forces were not involved in the clashes. Turkish forces had responded with artillery, it said.

The PKK - also listed as a terrorist organization by the USA and the European Union - resumed its 30-year armed campaign against the Turkish state in July 2015.

The sharp rhetoric - and the continued fighting - reflects the complicated and conflicting interests at stake in northern Syria after Turkish tanks rolled across the border August 24 with the dual aim of containing the IS group and Kurdish forces.

Turkey pressed ahead with its offensive, seemingly bent on creating a de facto "safe zone" free of IS and the Kurds near its border.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke Monday, as Syrian opposition groups reported that Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have captured more towns and villages in northern Syria. The Turkish military said it was also shifting operations westwards, which would take it into territory still under Islamic State control.

The officials are also concerned that the friction with Turkey could affect operations out of the USA air base at Incirlik in southeastern Turkey, which has been vital to the US effort to provide close-air support for the US -backed rebel groups inside Syria in the fight against ISIS.

"We will find them and punish them", Erdogan said as Turkish tanks and elements of the Free Syrian Army, another militia group backed by the USA, reportedly moved south of Jarabulus and clashed with the YPG.

In another sign of brewing discord, Cook said the Kurdish pullback to the east side of the Euphrates has "largely occurred".

Obama wants to talk with Erdogan about events in Turkey after July's attempted coup, the military campaign against Islamic State, and how to promote stability in Syria, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters.

Then last week, on a visit to Turkey, Vice President Joe Biden said the YPG would "under no circumstances" get United States support unless they honored what he said was a pledge to retreat east of the river. It said SDF-allied militia damaged three Turkish tanks there.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish operations will continue "until terror organizations such as Daesh, the PKK and its Syrian arm, the YPG, cease to be threats for our citizens".

The Jarablus Military Council, which is part of the SDF, said its fighters will withdraw to areas south of the Sajour River, a tributary of the Euphrates.

Turkey's operation aims to push the YPG back across the Euphrates to prevent it joining up a region east of the river already under its control with a Kurdish-held area to the west.

A group monitoring the tangled, five-year-old conflict in Syria said 41 people were killed by Turkish airstrikes as Turkish forces pushed south on Sunday.

Ankara strongly denies killing any civilians.

In turn, Turkey has blamed a rocket attack from a YPG-controlled area for the death of one of its soldiers on Saturday. The Local Coordination Committees, an activist collective, said the rebels captured seven more villages since late Sunday.



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