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Why Did the U.S. Allow a Convoy of ISIS Fighters to Go Free?

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Photo
As Russian-backed forces and American-back forces were closing in on the Euphrates River city of Deir al-Zour, above, American officials yielded to a Russian request to leave the Russian zone, which allowed the convoy to pass. Credit George Ourfalian/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Needing to relieve himself, the man stepped out of a bus into the night air of the Syrian desert.

The bus was part of a convoy carrying 300 Islamic State fighters that had been stuck there for days, prevented by American bombers from moving forward and prevented by the presence of women and children from being bombed.

The man walked a short distance away and began to urinate.

An American Hellfire missile ended the excursion.

By the American military’s count, 20 Islamic State fighters in the convoy died like that.

Those killings were among the consolation prizes the Americans claimed after ending the two-week standoff this week, reversing a vow never to let the militants pass and yielding a tactical victory to the Islamic State.

American officials say the decision to withdraw was the result of a complicated trade-off of competing priorities and speaks to the kind of battleground Syria is, a three-dimensional chessboard with multiple players, constantly shifting strategies, and opportunities seized and abandoned on the fly.

“The truth is that war is messy and chaotic,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington. “It’s all a mess, who’s got a right to do what at this point in Syria.”

Continue reading the main story

The Americans had been furious about the convoy from the start. The Islamic State had cut a deal with the Syrian government and its Hezbollah militia allies to allow the fighters and their families safe passage to cross Syria from the Lebanese border in the west to ISIS-controlled territory in eastern Syria and Iraq.

Within days, American airstrikes cratered the highway in front of the convoy, stopping it in its tracks. American officials vowed not to let the convoy pass, or the fighters to return to the battlefield.

“Our coalition will help ensure that these terrorists can never enter Iraq or escape from what remains of their dwindling caliphate,” said Brett H. McGurk, the American presidential special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition.

But that American line in the sand was wiped away with a telephone call last Friday from Russian military headquarters in Syria to American headquarters in Baghdad. Russia asked the United States to remove aerial reconnaissance over the convoy, which both sides knew would allow the convoy to proceed.

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100 Miles

TURKEY

Mosul

Tal Afar

Raqqa

Aleppo

ISIS-controlled

areas

SYRIA

Deir al-Zour

Mayadin

Sukhna

Homs

Palmyra

Abu Kamal

Tigris

 

Beirut

Humaimah

Qaim

Convoy route

Arsal

SYRIAN DESERT

Euphrates

LEBANON

Damascus

Baghdad

IRAQ

JORDAN

- gif base64 R0lGODlhCgAKAIAAAB8fHwAAACH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAAKAAoAAAIIhI py 0PYysAOw   - Why Did the U.S. Allow a Convoy of ISIS Fighters to Go Free?

TURKEY

ISIS-controlled

areas

Aleppo

SYRIA

Deir al-Zour

Mayadin

Sukhna

Homs

Euphrates

Palmyra

Abu Kamal

LEB.

Humaimah

Qaim

Convoy route

Arsal

SYRIAN DESERT

Damascus

IRAQ

100 Miles

JORDAN

The request was part of what the military calls “deconfliction,” a process to make sure the Russian-backed Syrian forces and the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces forces do not inadvertently attack each other while both are trying to battle ISIS.

Cooperation with the Russians was important since Russian-backed forces and American-supported forces were separately closing in on the Euphrates River city of Deir al-Zour, with both sides launching numerous air raids in the area.

Moreover, the convoy was pinned down near the town of Sukhna, well within the Russian side of the deconfliction line, in the area reserved for Russian warplanes to operate under a longstanding American-Russian agreement.

“The way the deconfliction has worked, there are certain areas where the Russians have a sway over what happens, and this is one of them,” said Mr. Joscelyn said.

The United States did not want to undercut a process it would need to rely on later.

The Americans agreed to the request, and the convoy slipped into Islamic State territory late Wednesday night, arriving in Mayadin 17 days after setting out from the Lebanese border.

On Thursday it headed further south to Abu Kamal, on the Iraqi border, and by Friday, according to Syrian anti-regime activists and to Iraqi officials in the border area, parts of the convoy had crossed into Qaim, Iraq, in western Anbar Province, also an ISIS-held area, arousing anger among Iraqi officials.

By the time of the Russian request, the standoff over the convoy had started producing diminishing returns for the United States.

They had already killed large numbers of Islamic State fighters, with the stranded buses having turned into a “fortuitous” shooting gallery, the spokesman for the American-led coalition, Col. Ryan Dillon, said.

Photo
Hezbollah supporters welcomed Ahmad Maatouk, a fighter who was detained by Islamic State militants in Syria, upon his return to Lebanon on Thursday. Hezbollah had promised the convoy safe passage in exchange for the release of prisoners captured by ISIS. Credit European Pressphoto Agency

As the Islamic State repeatedly sent rescuers down the single highway leading to the convoy, American warplanes and armed drones picked them off “with ease,” he said. Night vision technology made even midnight bathroom breaks perilous.

All told, American airstrikes had destroyed 40 ISIS rescue vehicles and killed 85 fighters, some from the convoy, others among would-be rescuers, Colonel Dillon said.

As the standoff stretched from days into weeks, the United States military was also concerned about bad publicity over the plight of the civilians stranded on the buses. Although food and water was being delivered to the convoy, temperatures were high in the desert and before it was over, according to a senior Hezbollah official in Syria, three babies had been born to women in the buses.

Colonel Dillon said this was not the main reason for the withdrawal but it was a factor.

Throughout the standoff, the Americans had been hampered by the presence of so many civilians, more than 300 according to Hezbollah. If the militants had intended them to be human shields, the strategy proved effective.

Hezbollah and the Syrian government, too, were concerned that the convoy get through. For Syria, whose government media suppressed news of the convoy, it was an embarrassment to see it stuck in the middle of its country, as many even pro-government Syrians commented on social media.

Its Hezbollah allies, and their Iranian backers, wanted the Islamic State to release prisoners and turn over the bodies of dead fighters. As a result, the senior Hezbollah official said, the Syrian government and Iran pressed Russia to close the file with the Americans.

“This was the deal to get ISIS fighters out of the Lebanese border area,” said Mr. Joscelyn. “The truth is even U.S.-backed forces have cut similar deals. Russia’s allies, Iran, the Assad regime and Hezbollah, cut this deal, and they probably wanted to abide by the deal because they want to be able to make deals in the future.”

As the convoy arrived in the middle Euphrates River Valley, the battle followed them there.

American airstrikes killed two senior Islamic State leaders in Mayadin last week, the military said. And Colonel Dillon said Thursday that airstrikes had killed senior ISIS leaders and destroyed weapons caches and other military targets in Mayadin and Abu Kamal.

In the city of Qaim, on the Iraqi side of the border, residents reached by telephone said that ISIS fighters had begun filtering into the town, taking up residence in vacant homes.

“We heard they came from the deal made with Hezbollah,” said one resident, who gave only his tribal name, al-Salmani, out of fear of ISIS reprisals.

The ISIS convoy as it set out from Lebanon en route to eastern Syria Reuters News Agency video of convoy

Continue reading the main story

Needing to relieve himself, the man stepped out of a bus into the night air of the Syrian desert.

The bus was part of a convoy carrying 300 Islamic State fighters that had been stuck there for days, prevented by American bombers from moving forward and prevented by the presence of women and children from being bombed.

The man walked a short distance away and began to urinate.

An American Hellfire missile ended the excursion.

By the American military’s count, 20 Islamic State fighters in the convoy died like that.

Those killings were among the consolation prizes the Americans claimed after ending the two-week standoff this week, reversing a vow never to let the militants pass and yielding a tactical victory to the Islamic State.

American officials say the decision to withdraw was the result of a complicated trade-off of competing priorities and speaks to the kind of battleground Syria is, a three-dimensional chessboard with multiple players, constantly shifting strategies, and opportunities seized and abandoned on the fly.

“The truth is that war is messy and chaotic,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington. “It’s all a mess, who’s got a right to do what at this point in Syria.”

The Americans had been furious about the convoy from the start. The Islamic State had cut a deal with the Syrian government and its Hezbollah militia allies to allow the fighters and their families safe passage to cross Syria from the Lebanese border in the west to ISIS-controlled territory in eastern Syria and Iraq.

Within days, American airstrikes cratered the highway in front of the convoy, stopping it in its tracks. American officials vowed not to let the convoy pass, or the fighters to return to the battlefield.

“Our coalition will help ensure that these terrorists can never enter Iraq or escape from what remains of their dwindling caliphate,” said Brett H. McGurk, the American presidential special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition.

But that American line in the sand was wiped away with a telephone call last Friday from Russian military headquarters in Syria to American headquarters in Baghdad. Russia asked the United States to remove aerial reconnaissance over the convoy, which both sides knew would allow the convoy to proceed.

The request was part of what the military calls “deconfliction,” a process to make sure the Russian-backed Syrian forces and the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces forces do not inadvertently attack each other while both are trying to battle ISIS.

Cooperation with the Russians was important since Russian-backed forces and American-supported forces were separately closing in on the Euphrates River city of Deir al-Zour, with both sides launching numerous air raids in the area.

Moreover, the convoy was pinned down near the town of Sukhna, well within the Russian side of the deconfliction line, in the area reserved for Russian warplanes to operate under a longstanding American-Russian agreement.

“The way the deconfliction has worked, there are certain areas where the Russians have a sway over what happens, and this is one of them,” said Mr. Joscelyn said.

The United States did not want to undercut a process it would need to rely on later.

The Americans agreed to the request, and the convoy slipped into Islamic State territory late Wednesday night, arriving in Mayadin 17 days after setting out from the Lebanese border.

On Thursday it headed further south to Abu Kamal, on the Iraqi border, and by Friday, according to Syrian anti-regime activists and to Iraqi officials in the border area, parts of the convoy had crossed into Qaim, Iraq, in western Anbar Province, also an ISIS-held area, arousing anger among Iraqi officials.

By the time of the Russian request, the standoff over the convoy had started producing diminishing returns for the United States.

They had already killed large numbers of Islamic State fighters, with the stranded buses having turned into a “fortuitous” shooting gallery, the spokesman for the American-led coalition, Col. Ryan Dillon, said.

As the Islamic State repeatedly sent rescuers down the single highway leading to the convoy, American warplanes and armed drones picked them off “with ease,” he said. Night vision technology made even midnight bathroom breaks perilous.

All told, American airstrikes had destroyed 40 ISIS rescue vehicles and killed 85 fighters, some from the convoy, others among would-be rescuers, Colonel Dillon said.

As the standoff stretched from days into weeks, the United States military was also concerned about bad publicity over the plight of the civilians stranded on the buses. Although food and water was being delivered to the convoy, temperatures were high in the desert and before it was over, according to a senior Hezbollah official in Syria, three babies had been born to women in the buses.

Colonel Dillon said this was not the main reason for the withdrawal but it was a factor.

Throughout the standoff, the Americans had been hampered by the presence of so many civilians, more than 300 according to Hezbollah. If the militants had intended them to be human shields, the strategy proved effective.

Hezbollah and the Syrian government, too, were concerned that the convoy get through. For Syria, whose government media suppressed news of the convoy, it was an embarrassment to see it stuck in the middle of its country, as many even pro-government Syrians commented on social media.

Its Hezbollah allies, and their Iranian backers, wanted the Islamic State to release prisoners and turn over the bodies of dead fighters. As a result, the senior Hezbollah official said, the Syrian government and Iran pressed Russia to close the file with the Americans.

“This was the deal to get ISIS fighters out of the Lebanese border area,” said Mr. Joscelyn. “The truth is even U.S.-backed forces have cut similar deals. Russia’s allies, Iran, the Assad regime and Hezbollah, cut this deal, and they probably wanted to abide by the deal because they want to be able to make deals in the future.”

As the convoy arrived in the middle Euphrates River Valley, the battle followed them there.

American airstrikes killed two senior Islamic State leaders in Mayadin last week, the military said. And Colonel Dillon said Thursday that airstrikes had killed senior ISIS leaders and destroyed weapons caches and other military targets in Mayadin and Abu Kamal.

In the city of Qaim, on the Iraqi side of the border, residents reached by telephone said that ISIS fighters had begun filtering into the town, taking up residence in vacant homes.

“We heard they came from the deal made with Hezbollah,” said one resident, who gave only his tribal name, al-Salmani, out of fear of ISIS reprisals.

Nytimes

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Syria

Mixed Messages From U.S. as Turkey Attacks Syrian Kurds

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Turkish soldiers around the area of Mount Bersaya, north of the Syrian town of Azaz, on Tuesday. Credit Saleh Abo Ghaloun/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The White House sent out a message aimed at mollifying Turkey’s president on Tuesday, suggesting that the United States was easing off its support for the Syrian Kurds.

That message was quickly contradicted by the Pentagon, which said it would continue to stand by the Kurds, even as Turkey invaded their stronghold in northwestern Syria.

The conflicting statements appeared to reflect an effort by the administration to balance competing pressures. Turkey, which has been furious over American support for the Kurds, is a NATO ally, while the Kurds have been critical American partners in the war against the Islamic State.

For its part, the White House disavowed a plan by the American military to create a Kurdish-led force in northeastern Syria, which Turkey has vehemently opposed. Turkey, which considers the Kurdish militia a terrorist organization, fears the plan would cement a Kurdish enclave along its southern frontier.

That plan, a senior administration official said Tuesday, originated with midlevel military planners in the field, and was never seriously debated, or even formally introduced, at senior levels in the White House or the National Security Council.

Continue reading the main story

The official, who spoke to reporters on condition that he not be identified, also said that the United States had no connection to the Kurds in the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin, where the Turkish military has launched an invasion in recent days.

And he drew a distinction between allies — a term he said had legal connotations — and partners in a combat mission, like the Kurds. America’s actions on the ground in Syria, he said, would be driven by a calculation of its interests.

Taken together, the administration’s statements appeared to be a significant attempt to reassure Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who considers the Kurds a threat to his country’s internal stability.

But the Pentagon issued its own statement on Tuesday standing by its decision to create the Kurdish-led force. And a senior American commander praised the partnership with the Kurds, whose help was critical in a major American airstrike on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, over the weekend.

“U.S. forces are training local partners to serve as a force that is internally focused on stability and deterring ISIS,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, said in the statement. “These local security forces are aimed at preventing the potential outflow of fleeing ISIS terrorists as their physical presence in Syria nears its end and pending a longer-term settlement of the civil war in Syria to ensure that ISIS cannot escape or return.”

The Pentagon has engaged in a rebranding effort, however, as the force was initially described as a border force, leading Turkey to fear the presence of thousands of American-backed, Kurdish troops on its border. Military officials are now saying that its duties will be mainly internal.

The debate over the partnership with the Kurds is taking place as the Kurds continue to play a major role fighting alongside the Americans in Syria.

The military’s Central Command said Tuesday that about 150 Islamic State fighters were killed in American airstrikes near As Shafah, Syria, on Saturday, in one the largest strikes against ISIS in the past year. The Kurdish-led militia, called the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., helped guide the airstrikes, American officials said.

“The strikes underscore our assertion that the fight to liberate Syria is far from over,” Maj. Gen. James Jarrard, the commander of Special Operations forces in Iraq and Syria, said a statement. “Our S.D.F. partners are still making daily progress and sacrifices, and together we are still finding, targeting and killing ISIS terrorists intent on keeping their extremist hold on the region.”

Senior Pentagon officials and American commanders say that the Syrian Kurds will most likely serve as the backbone of the allied forces on the ground in Syria for months to come.

Echoing earlier comments by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the commander of the United States Central Command, General Joseph L. Votel, said in an interview last month that American forces would remain in eastern Syria, alongside their Syrian Kurdish and Arab allies, as long as needed to defeat the Islamic State.

Photo
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was among those at the funeral of a soldier killed in the country’s operation in Syria. Credit Adem Altan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“What we don’t want to do is leave a mess,” General Votel said, something “worse than what we found.”

Coalition forces are attacking the last remnants of the Islamic State in the Euphrates River valley of Syria, near the Iraqi border. But as that campaign begins to wane, the American partnership with the Kurds is bringing it into ever-more-direct conflict with Turkey.

While the Turkish military incursion into Afrin has seized the world’s attention, American, NATO and Turkish officials have directed their eyes east, to the strategic city of Manbij.

Home to a contingent of United States Special Operations troops who are training and equipping Kurdish forces that control the city, Manbij is increasingly emerging as the ultimate target of the Turkish operation and a far more serious source of tension than the Afrin offensive.

A Turkish assault on Manbij could bring its forces into direct conflict with the Americans, with unpredictable results.

“It may bring a direct military confrontation, as American forces are there,” said Gonul Tol, director of the Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “The death of even one American soldier may completely break ties.”

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, raised Manbij when briefing Turkish journalists on Tuesday morning, having met the day before with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson in France.

“Terrorists in Manbij are constantly firing provocation shots,” Mr. Cavusoglu said. “If the United States doesn’t stop this, we will stop it.

Mr. Tillerson said the United States would keep working with Turkey to stabilize the situation and address its security concerns.

The level of concern about Turkish-American relations was reflected in the flurry of meetings this week between officials of the two countries.

American officials, led by the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, Jonathan R. Cohen, flew to Ankara, Turkey’s capital, for meetings scheduled for Wednesday, including with security officials. They were joined there by Rose Gottemoeller, the deputy secretary general of NATO, who was in Turkey for a planned, two-day visit.

In an interview with the NTV news channel, Ms. Gotemoeller treaded carefully, saying that “Turkey has legitimate reasons to be concerned about the Kurdish armed organizations in Syria,” but adding that “one should keep a balance between the threat and the reaction to it.”

Turkey has long complained about American support for Syrian Kurdish militias, which it says have emboldened the Kurdish separatist movement that Ankara considers a threat to its territorial sovereignty and is prepared to go to great lengths to counteract. Turkish officials say that this has allowed weapons and support to reach the outlawed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Europe and has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

Turkey, which shares a long border with Kurdish-controlled areas of northeastern Syria, has been particularly incensed by the Kurdish militias’ seizure of Arab villages and towns in the area.

Manbij is in many respects the gateway to those areas, a regional center some miles west of the Euphrates. It is now under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces, and has been since last August, when it expelled the Islamic State.

Robert S. Ford, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and a former Ambassador to Syria, wrote in an analytical column that Turkey’s military operations in Syria demonstrated the difficulties of the American position. Turkey’s brushoff of American concerns made the United States look weak, Mr. Ford wrote, adding that some Kurdish observers were accusing America of being an unreliable ally.

“Over the longer term, it is hard to see how the U.S. will secure its stated political goal of stabilization in eastern Syria and genuine governance reforms in Syria,” he wrote.

Continue reading the main story

WASHINGTON — The White House sent out a message aimed at mollifying Turkey’s president on Tuesday, suggesting that the United States was easing off its support for the Syrian Kurds.

That message was quickly contradicted by the Pentagon, which said it would continue to stand by the Kurds, even as Turkey invaded their stronghold in northwestern Syria.

The conflicting statements appeared to reflect an effort by the administration to balance competing pressures. Turkey, which has been furious over American support for the Kurds, is a NATO ally, while the Kurds have been critical American partners in the war against the Islamic State.

For its part, the White House disavowed a plan by the American military to create a Kurdish-led force in northeastern Syria, which Turkey has vehemently opposed. Turkey, which considers the Kurdish militia a terrorist organization, fears the plan would cement a Kurdish enclave along its southern frontier.

That plan, a senior administration official said Tuesday, originated with midlevel military planners in the field, and was never seriously debated, or even formally introduced, at senior levels in the White House or the National Security Council.

The official, who spoke to reporters on condition that he not be identified, also said that the United States had no connection to the Kurds in the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin, where the Turkish military has launched an invasion in recent days.

And he drew a distinction between allies — a term he said had legal connotations — and partners in a combat mission, like the Kurds. America’s actions on the ground in Syria, he said, would be driven by a calculation of its interests.

Taken together, the administration’s statements appeared to be a significant attempt to reassure Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who considers the Kurds a threat to his country’s internal stability.

But the Pentagon issued its own statement on Tuesday standing by its decision to create the Kurdish-led force. And a senior American commander praised the partnership with the Kurds, whose help was critical in a major American airstrike on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, over the weekend.

“U.S. forces are training local partners to serve as a force that is internally focused on stability and deterring ISIS,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, said in the statement. “These local security forces are aimed at preventing the potential outflow of fleeing ISIS terrorists as their physical presence in Syria nears its end and pending a longer-term settlement of the civil war in Syria to ensure that ISIS cannot escape or return.”

The Pentagon has engaged in a rebranding effort, however, as the force was initially described as a border force, leading Turkey to fear the presence of thousands of American-backed, Kurdish troops on its border. Military officials are now saying that its duties will be mainly internal.

The debate over the partnership with the Kurds is taking place as the Kurds continue to play a major role fighting alongside the Americans in Syria.

The military’s Central Command said Tuesday that about 150 Islamic State fighters were killed in American airstrikes near As Shafah, Syria, on Saturday, in one the largest strikes against ISIS in the past year. The Kurdish-led militia, called the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., helped guide the airstrikes, American officials said.

“The strikes underscore our assertion that the fight to liberate Syria is far from over,” Maj. Gen. James Jarrard, the commander of Special Operations forces in Iraq and Syria, said a statement. “Our S.D.F. partners are still making daily progress and sacrifices, and together we are still finding, targeting and killing ISIS terrorists intent on keeping their extremist hold on the region.”

Senior Pentagon officials and American commanders say that the Syrian Kurds will most likely serve as the backbone of the allied forces on the ground in Syria for months to come.

Echoing earlier comments by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the commander of the United States Central Command, General Joseph L. Votel, said in an interview last month that American forces would remain in eastern Syria, alongside their Syrian Kurdish and Arab allies, as long as needed to defeat the Islamic State.

“What we don’t want to do is leave a mess,” General Votel said, something “worse than what we found.”

Coalition forces are attacking the last remnants of the Islamic State in the Euphrates River valley of Syria, near the Iraqi border. But as that campaign begins to wane, the American partnership with the Kurds is bringing it into ever-more-direct conflict with Turkey.

While the Turkish military incursion into Afrin has seized the world’s attention, American, NATO and Turkish officials have directed their eyes east, to the strategic city of Manbij.

Home to a contingent of United States Special Operations troops who are training and equipping Kurdish forces that control the city, Manbij is increasingly emerging as the ultimate target of the Turkish operation and a far more serious source of tension than the Afrin offensive.

A Turkish assault on Manbij could bring its forces into direct conflict with the Americans, with unpredictable results.

“It may bring a direct military confrontation, as American forces are there,” said Gonul Tol, director of the Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “The death of even one American soldier may completely break ties.”

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, raised Manbij when briefing Turkish journalists on Tuesday morning, having met the day before with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson in France.

“Terrorists in Manbij are constantly firing provocation shots,” Mr. Cavusoglu said. “If the United States doesn’t stop this, we will stop it.

Mr. Tillerson said the United States would keep working with Turkey to stabilize the situation and address its security concerns.

The level of concern about Turkish-American relations was reflected in the flurry of meetings this week between officials of the two countries.

American officials, led by the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, Jonathan R. Cohen, flew to Ankara, Turkey’s capital, for meetings scheduled for Wednesday, including with security officials. They were joined there by Rose Gottemoeller, the deputy secretary general of NATO, who was in Turkey for a planned, two-day visit.

In an interview with the NTV news channel, Ms. Gotemoeller treaded carefully, saying that “Turkey has legitimate reasons to be concerned about the Kurdish armed organizations in Syria,” but adding that “one should keep a balance between the threat and the reaction to it.”

Turkey has long complained about American support for Syrian Kurdish militias, which it says have emboldened the Kurdish separatist movement that Ankara considers a threat to its territorial sovereignty and is prepared to go to great lengths to counteract. Turkish officials say that this has allowed weapons and support to reach the outlawed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Europe and has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

Turkey, which shares a long border with Kurdish-controlled areas of northeastern Syria, has been particularly incensed by the Kurdish militias’ seizure of Arab villages and towns in the area.

Manbij is in many respects the gateway to those areas, a regional center some miles west of the Euphrates. It is now under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces, and has been since last August, when it expelled the Islamic State.

Robert S. Ford, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and a former Ambassador to Syria, wrote in an analytical column that Turkey’s military operations in Syria demonstrated the difficulties of the American position. Turkey’s brushoff of American concerns made the United States look weak, Mr. Ford wrote, adding that some Kurdish observers were accusing America of being an unreliable ally.

“Over the longer term, it is hard to see how the U.S. will secure its stated political goal of stabilization in eastern Syria and genuine governance reforms in Syria,” he wrote.

Nytimes

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US chemical blame-game: Well-timed PR stunt or trick to justify military presence in Syria?

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US rejects Moscow-proposed UN mechanism to probe Syria chemical attacks based on facts

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- 20180124 20180123 2018 01 23 hsk dauyyani ji bo efrin 2 620x3649b2bdb imageb2feed image 400x240 - Self-Defense Forces: We will not allow Turkey to invade Afrin  - 20180124 20180123 2018 01 23 hsk dauyyani ji bo efrin 2 620x3649b2bdb imageb2feed image 80x80 - Self-Defense Forces: We will not allow Turkey to invade Afrin 
Rojava6 hours ago

Self-Defense Forces: We will not allow Turkey to invade Afrin 

The Defense Councils of Northern Syria regions made a joint statement at Heseke Stadium in solidarity with the resistance of...

- KACOttawa 400x240 - Kurds in Canada urge Turkey to ‘stop spilling Kurdish blood’ in Afrin - KACOttawa 80x80 - Kurds in Canada urge Turkey to ‘stop spilling Kurdish blood’ in Afrin
kurdistan6 hours ago

Kurds in Canada urge Turkey to ‘stop spilling Kurdish blood’ in Afrin

Rojen Rahmani, head of lobbying and advocacy for KAC, said the Canadian government needs to respond and condemn Turkey’s violent...

- 20180123 20180123 555ef125f imaged8d415 image 400x240 - Number of civilians wounded in Turkish attacks rises to 10  - 20180123 20180123 555ef125f imaged8d415 image 80x80 - Number of civilians wounded in Turkish attacks rises to 10 
Rojava6 hours ago

Number of civilians wounded in Turkish attacks rises to 10 

Turkish army continued its airstrikes and artillery attacks on Cindires and Rajo districts of Afrin throughout Tuesday. 10 civilians suffered...

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