The Pentagon has urged Turkey to drop plans to invade Syria because the operation could endanger US troops in the country.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin offered his condolences to his counterpart Turkish Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar on the death of the Istanbul bombing which happened last month and triggered military action in Syria.
But Austin pointed out that the airstrikes – and the impending ground invasion of Syria – directly threatens the safety of American personnel working in Syria.
“Secretary Austin called for de-escalation and shared the Department’s strong opposition to a new Turkish military operation in Syria,” according to a reading of the call between Austin and Akar.
Turkey launched a series of airstrikes in northern Syria after the November 13 bombing that killed six people and injured at least 80 others.
The Turkish authorities have arrested a Syrian Arab they linked to Kurdish militiasbut the militias have denied any involvement.
Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan authorized a military response in Syria, called “Operation Sword-Claw”, which aimed to eliminate the People’s Defense Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
A Kurdish general told Fox News last week that NATO ally Turkey planned to carry out a massive ground invasion of Syria in a bid to target the same Kurdish groups who partnered with the US military in its campaign against ISIS.
US military officials have also raised concerns that the operation could end up giving an opportunity for some 10,000 Islamic State detainees to escape solitary confinement.
Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said Wednesday, “Recent airstrikes in Syria have directly threatened the safety of U.S. personnel who are working in Syria with local partners to defeat ISIS and maintain custody. over 10,000 ISIS detainees.”
Ryder noted that “immediate de-escalation is required to maintain focus on the defeat ISIS mission and ensure the safety and security of personnel on the ground engaged in the defeat ISIS mission.”
A military official said that Syria presents ideal conditions for ISIS to continue to swell its ranks and regain its former operational capability: CENTCOM chief General Erik Kurilla visited the refugee camp in Al -Hol in Syria and said ISIS sought to exploit the conditions in the camp to attract new recruits to his cause.
“The SDF mission to eliminate ISIS from the camp continues: it is a large-scale critical operation that will make the camp safer for all residents,” Kurilla said after his visit. “We have already seen IS members holding women and girls in chains inside the camp, torturing camp residents and seeking to spread their ugly ideology.”
Fox News’ Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this report.
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