US to build outposts along Syria-Turkey border, Mattis says
The U.S. military will set up observation posts along the border of Turkey and Syria to observe and report militant forces moving in the area, the Defense Department announced Wednesday.
At a press briefing, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the posts aim to reduce tensions between U.S.-aligned Kurdish forces and Turkish authorities, who have accused some Kurdish forces of involvement in terrorist attacks in Turkey.
“Turkey, a NATO ally, has legitimate concerns about terrorist threats and from where they’re emanating,” Mattis said Wednesday. “We don’t dismiss any of their concerns.”
The outposts will allow U.S. forces to “call the Turks and warn them if we see something coming out of an area we’re operating in,” Mattis added, according to ABC News.
Some Kurdish forces also operate in the region as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a partner of the U.S. in its fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Turkey has fought small skirmishes with Kurdish forces along its border with Syria, drawing forces away from offensive maneuvers against ISIS and prompting the U.S.-aligned group to suspend operations temporarily, the outlet noted.
The U.S. currently has about 2,000 troops serving in Syria assisting local forces against ISIS militants, ABC noted. The latest order from Mattis will not affect those deployment numbers, according to the Pentagon.
“Progress is being made but hard work remains because ISIS is using civilians as shields and coalition forces are committed to minimizing harm to the local populace,” stated the Pentagon’s press release Wednesday announcing the mission.