October 16, 2019

Implementing security mechanism in Northeast Syria

By Guido Lanfranchi.

The militaries of the United States and Turkey are jointly implementing a security mechanism for Northeastern Syria. The aim of the operations – U.S. military officials explained – is to support the fight against ISIS, while at the same time addressing Turkey’s security concerns.

As a complex and multi-layered war continues to affect Syria, the United States and Turkey are currently trying to cooperate in order to address some of the problems faced in the north-eastern part of the country. To date, Turkish and U.S. forces have already conducted five aerial reconnaissance patrols and one combined ground patrol in the area – Brigadier General Christian Wortman, Deputy Director of Operations of the U.S. European Command, explained in a press briefing. 

Brig. Gen. Wortman, who is the lead U.S. military representative coordinating with Turkey the implementation of a security mechanism in Northeast Syria, clarified that “the intention of this security mechanism is to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns and to preserve the conditions that support continued operations to defeat ISIS while fostering conditions that reduce the risk of violence and instability” in the region. The mechanism – he added – is implemented “in close coordination with Turkey, an important and longstanding NATO ally”.

These operations are being conducted also in coordination with the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. military operation to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Brigadier General Scott Naumann, Director of Operations for the Task Force, highlighted that in the wake of ISIS’ territorial defeat the group remains a threat, and the U.S. military is consequently focusing its efforts on “enabling local security and preventing resurgent ISIS networks”. 

The U.S. officials also addressed the issue of civilian casualties in the area. While refraining from commenting on the specifics of the most recent UN Commission for Inquiry on Syria report, Brig. Gen. Wortman stressed that the U.S. military is working “very, very carefully to structure our operations and activities in a manner that limits any negative impacts to civilian populations” 

Questioned about the future of U.S. and Turkish operations in Northeast Syria, and specifically about rumors on the establishment of joint patrolling bases in the area, the U.S. officials declined to comment. However, Brig. Gen. Naumann explained that “there has been no change in our policy”. The U.S. military is set to maintain its current footprint, to continue providing tailored support to the Syrian Democratic Forces for the fight against ISIS, and to take into account the delicate security interests of its ally Turkey.

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