Turkey Deputy PM designates US troops 'wearing YPG uniform' a target
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister, Bekir Bozdag, on Sunday said US troops advising and training Kurdish forces in northern Syria could become a target for his country's army which is already waging an undeclared war on the Afrin enclave where Kurds are there on their own.
"If we happen to [face] even American soldiers in YPG uniforms, they are a target. Let them not confront us," Bozdag told the private news channel, CNN Turk, voicing the possibility of a conflict between the two NATO allies.
The YPG or the People's Protection Units is the bulk of the local Syrian partners of the US-led Coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) group.
No US troop is known to have donned Kurdish military outfit while on duty in Syria, though some wearing the YPG insignia in 2016 made headlines and created a heated diplomatic crisis with Washington.
Bozdag also said Turkey was determined to capture the town of Manbij, another flashpoint west of the River Euphrates, and as far east as the border with Iraq, reiterating an earlier threat by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to dismantle all of the Kurdish-led autonomy of Northern Syria.
Erdogan on Saturday praised Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants, who along with his army have been attacking the isolated Afrin, for wearing Turkish flag patches.
"They, on the other hand, have US patches on their arms," he said of the YPG, in continuation of an increasingly fierce anti-American rhetoric – partly in preparation for next year's critical parliamentary, local and presidential elections.
Bozdag's remarks appeared to be milder compared with those last year by a chief advisor to Erdogan, Ilnur Cevik.
Cevik had issued a veiled threat to US forces patrolling as a de facto peace-keeping force on the Turkey-Syria border after Ankara launched airstrikes in April 2017 that killed some 20 Kurdish fighters.
"If they [YPG] go too far, our [forces won't care] that American armored vehicles are there... Unexpectedly, a number of rockets may also hit them by accident," continued Cevik, surprising even the radio host he was addressing.
While the US urged Turkey to 'limit its actions' in Afrin, which has reportedly killed over 150 civilians so far, the US State Department said Ankara had not given any assurances over regarding Manbij.
Editing by Nadia Riva