US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has called on the Turkish government to stop attacking US-backed factions of Kurdish militants in Syria, days after Turkey launched a military incursion into the neighboring country.
“We have called upon Turkey… to stay focused on the fight against Daesh and not to engage Syrian Defense Forces, and we’ve had a number of contacts over the last several days,” Carter told a press briefing on Monday, mixing up the name of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The SDF, which is a coalition of Arab and Kurdish forces, has received considerable American support in the form of airstrikes and special operations forces embedded within the group.
On August 24, Turkish special forces, tanks and jets backed by planes from the US-led coalition launched their first coordinated offensive in Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the operation is aimed at “terror groups” such as Daesh and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) – a US-backed Kurdish group based in Syria.
Ankara regards the YPG and PYD as allies of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous Kurdish region inside Turkey since the 1980s.
The YPG, which controls nearly Syria’s entire northern border with Turkey, has been fighting against Daesh.
Hours after the beginning of the operation, Turkish-backed militants seized Jarablus, with Erdogan saying that they had taken over “government and official residences” and forced Daesh out of the town.
Ankara has said its military campaign is aimed at “cleansing” the region of Daesh and preventing Kurdish forces from gaining power in the ensuing void.
The Pentagon has called clashes in areas where Daesh is not present “unacceptable and a source of deep concern.”
Carter said US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, and his Turkish counterpart had spoken about the issue on Sunday.
The top military official also said he would meet Turkey’s defense minister during a European tour next week.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama is set to discuss the fight on Daesh with Erdogan on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in China on Sunday.