Biden slams ‘outrageous’ PKK, hails Turkey help in IS fight
US Vice President Joe Biden says the US and Turkey are prepared for military solutions in Syria if a political settlement cannot be found. He added that Washington recognizes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party is as much of a threat to Ankara as Islamic State.
“We do know it would better if we can reach a political solution but we are prepared …, if that’s not possible, to have a military solution to this operation and taking out Daesh,” Biden said at a news conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, as cited by Reuters. ‘Daesh’ is an Arabic term for Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS/ISIL).
A US official later clarified that Biden was talking about a military solution to IS, not Syria as a whole.
Biden added that he discussed with Davutoglu how the two allies could try and work together to support Syrian rebel groups who oppose President Bashar Assad. The US vice president backed Ankara in its battle with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), saying it was as much of a threat to Ankara as Islamic State, and that Turkey must do everything necessary to protect its citizens.
However, the pair disagreed about the status of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria, with Biden saying there is a difference between the PYD and PKK.
“To say that these [groups] are separate, one should be unaware that those [PKK] guns are coming to [Turkey] from Syria,” Davutoglu said, according to Reuters.
Ankara believes the Syrian Kurds are looking to create a corridor along the northern border with Turkey, which would cut off Turkey from sharing a boundary with Syria.
“The PYD is a terrorist organization that cooperates with the Syrian regime. Struggling against Daesh does not grant them legitimacy,” the Turkish prime minister said.
Turkey has carried out attacks on Kurdish forces in northern Syria. In late July, the Kurds said they had been bombed at least four times, with civilians being among the casualties. Ankara maintained its airstrikes were aimed at members of the PKK.
Kurdish fighters have proved to be some of the most effective forces in helping to combat Islamic State in northern Syria, while borders in territories under its control have been sealed to stop the flow of foreign IS militants into Syria.
On Friday, Biden said Turkey’s intimidation of the media, curtailing of internet freedom and accusations of treason made against academics was not setting a good example in the Middle East.
“The more Turkey succeeds, the stronger the message sent to the entire Middle East and parts of the world who are only beginning to grapple with the notion of freedom,” Biden mentioned.
“But when the media are intimidated or imprisoned for critical reporting, when internet freedom is curtailed and social media sites like YouTube or Twitter are shut down and more than 1,000 academics are accused of treason simply by signing a petition, that’s not the kind of example that needs to be set,” he said.
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The situation for the Islamist rebels of Jabhat Al-Nusra (Syrian Al-Qaeda group) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the strategic city of Sheikh Miskeen is becoming extremely dire as the Syrian Arab Army’s 15th Brigade of the 5th Armored Division continues to advance in the southern district that was once firmly under the control of the opposition.
On Thursday, an Islamist rebel in Sheikh Miskeen issued a plea for help on video, stating that the opposition is losing the city because of the scarcity of battle tanks that are leaving the militants of the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat Al-Nusra defenseless against the advancing armored divisions of the Syrian Arab Army.
The Islamist rebel further added that the Syrian Arab Army and their allies are now in control of 80 percent of Sheikh Miskeen; meaning, this city falls to the pro-government forces, a domino effect will occur in northwestern Dara’a that will include cities like ‘Ibta, Nawa, and Da’el.
The lack of rebel reinforcements is due to a number of reasons: 1) infighting – Harakat Al-Mathana and Jaysh Al-Yarmouk are currently fighting each other at the outskirts of Sheikh Miskeen 2) fuel shortage – there is a scarcity of fuel that is readily available for their armored vehicles 3) Dara’a City and Al-Quneitra: the Islamists are spread too thin across several fronts and this is opening a hole for the Syrian Arab Army to capitalize on.
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The US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter explained the decision to conduct a ground operation as a desire “to accelerate the process of” victory over the “Islamic State”. Earlier, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the U.S. is not going to get involved in new large-scale war in Syria and Iraq.
The coalition will involve ground troops in the fight against the terrorist group “Islamic State” (IS, is prohibited in Russia) in Syria and Iraq, said the U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
As was reported by the Agency Reuters, referring to TV channel CNBC, “a ground operation will be a part of a strategy to combat ISIS in Iraq and Syria”. “We do a lot, because we have to do a lot, because we have to defeat ISIS. I’m sure we’ll manage, but I want to speed up this process”, — said Carter.
Earlier, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the U.S. is not going to get involved in new large-scale war in Syria and Iraq. Also, during his address to the nation on December 7th, Obama said that it would lead “to the death of thousands of troops and the draining of resources”.
By Andrew Tilghman
January 22, 2016 “Information Clearing House” – “Military Times” – U.S. special operations troops have reportedly taken over an airfield in northeastern Syria, potentially clearing the way to flow more American military support to friendly militias fighting the Islamic State group.
A small team of U.S. troops is setting up a base camp at Rmeilan Air Base in the Syrian Kurdish region near Syria’s Iraqi and Turkish borders, according to local reports.
American helicopters operated at the base over the past couple of weeks as local workers expanded the runway, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The airfield was until recently under control of the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the YPG, but was turned over to the U.S. to help expand American support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is the loose-knit coalition of American-backed militants fighting the Islamic State group.
“Under a deal with the YPG, the U.S. was given control of the airport. The purpose of this deal is to back up the SDF, by providing weapons and an air base for U.S. warplanes,” an SDF spokesperson, Taj Kordsh, told Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based international news network, in a report published Wednesday.
In December, a team of fewer than 50 U.S. special operations troops entered Syria for the first time and made face-to-face contact with the friendly Syrian militants, defense official said.
A spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department, Army Col. Steve Warren, declined to comment on the reports of Americans using the base.
“That operation is ongoing. But because of the special nature of these forces, it’s very important that we not discuss specifically where they’re located,” Warren told reporters Wednesday.
Rmeilan is near some of Syria’s major oil production facilities. The airfield is in the Hasakah region, where American-backed militias have been mounting offensive operations against Islamic State-held territory northeast of the extremist group’s stronghold in Raqqa.
It is also near a key supply line connecting Raqqa to the Islamic State group’s second major city, Mosul, Iraq. Cutting that supply line is a key piece of the current American strategy for defeating the group.
Control of the airfield would help U.S. troops expedite delivery of weapons and ammunition to the region as well as operate more aircraft such as medevac helicopters, armed drones or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.
Imagery Supports Claims of U.S. Military Activity in Syria
January 22, 2016 “Information Clearing House” – “Stratfor ” – As Syria’s rebel coalition expands its fight against the Islamic State, so too does it appear that the United States is expanding its support of the rebels. Low-resolution satellite imagery taken Dec. 28 shows construction underway to extend the runway at an airfield in Rmeilan, al-Hasaka province, which would prepare the site to accommodate larger aircraft. (Similar images captured over the course of the last few weeks had been obscured by cloud cover, making it difficult to discern more recent ground activity.) Rumors of the U.S. arrival at Rmeilan originally surfaced in early January; the images confirm that at least some of those rumors are true.
Before the war, the airfield was an agricultural airstrip used by the Syrian government. As such, its runway was only 2,300 feet (700 meters) long, a length that appears to be doubling. The airfield has since been captured by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which has controlled the airport for more than two years.
The new and improved infrastructure could help the Syrian Democratic Forces conduct offensive operations against the Islamic State. The United States has already carried out two weapons airdrops to the rebel Syrian Arab Coalition, a faction of the Syrian Democratic Forces. But additional assistance in the Syrian Democratic Forces’ fight against the Islamic State, including efforts to drive the extremist group from its self-declared capital in Raqqa, would require a broader logistical effort than is currently underway. Expanding the Rmeilan runway could expedite this process by allowing U.S. airplanes to land and drop off supplies instead of continuing to rely on airdrops.
The U.S. involvement in al-Hasaka province would not be so unusual; the United States nearly always attempts to establish an air bridge to support the semi-permanent positions of the conflicts in which it operates. But it comes at a time when Russia similarly builds up its own military presence there. A Russian detachment composed of logistics personnel and military intelligence officers has reportedly arrived in Qamishli airport, an airfield in al-Hasaka controlled by forces loyal to the Syrian government. While the Russians will likely try to improve the logistical capability of the airfield, they have reportedly already sought to enhance their influence with the various rebel militia groups operating in the province. Copyright © 2016. Stratfor
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