ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – American UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters flew in formation with Turkish helicopters on Thursday to perform the fourth “overflight” in northeastern Syria as part of a new security agreement.
US Marine Corps Lt. Col. Roe Lemons and Turkish Army Maj. Mahmijt Ceylan, both attached to Combined Joint Operations Command-Adana, flew together and discussed the area they were patrolling.
“You can see the progress: the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] voluntarily razed fortifications; we’ve conducted several US-Turkey reconnaissance overflights,” Coalition Spokesperson Col. Myles B. Caggins III said in a statement received by Kurdistan 24.
“We have a Combined Joint Operations Center in Turkey for face-to-face collaboration; and, our joint ground patrol demonstrates our continued commitment to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, while also allowing the Coalition and our SDF partners to remain focused on achieving the enduring defeat of Daesh (ISIS).”
The joint flights are part of a security agreement made between Washington and Ankara in early August. This plan is designed to address specific concerns of Turkey, which wants areas along its border to be cleared of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the group that provides the military leadership for the US-backed SDF.
Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), against which it has fought in a decades-long conflict over Kurdish rights in Turkey. The YPG has denied these links to the PKK and has often accused Turkey of supporting the Islamic State.
The US-led coalition said the US army and “Turkish militaries are currently executing concrete steps together to ensure the border area in northeast Syria remains stable and secure.”
On Sept. 8, US and Turkish army vehicles also carried out a joint patrol in an area close to the town of Tal Abyad.
The Coordination and Military Operations Centre of the SDF recently announced that its leadership had approved these joint US-Turkish flights as part of the agreement.
“The goal,” the Kurdish-led group said in a statement, “is to maintain peace and stability.”
Editing by John J. Catherine