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Iran Sent Them to Syria. Now Afghan Fighters Are a Worry at Home.

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Afghan fighters in the Iranian-trained Fatemiyoun Division, on the front line near Palmyra, Syria, in June. Credit Mikhail Voskresenskiy/Sputnik, via Associated Press

YAKAWLANG, Afghanistan — Iran has trained and deployed thousands of Shiite Afghans as shock troops in Syria’s sectarian war. Members of the Afghan unit, the Fatemiyoun Division, wear a shoulder patch recounting words of praise from Iran’s supreme leader as a badge of honor.

What those fighters might do when they come home is now very much on the minds of officials who fear that Afghanistan may become the next great sectarian battleground between Iran, as the declared guardian of Shiites, and Saudi Arabia, long the sponsor of conservative Sunni doctrine around the world.

“This is quite dangerous: What happens to this Fatemiyoun force when the war in Syria is over?” said Rahmatullah Nabil, a former Afghan intelligence chief. “The fear is that rivalry in the region, between Iran and Saudi, will shift to Afghanistan. And I think that clash is already shifting here.”

There is reason for worry. First, there’s a history: The factional divisions that drove Afghanistan’s devastating civil war in the 1990s were seized on by foreign powers who were seeking proxies. And there’s a new concern: A stark increase in attacks against Afghanistan’s Shiite minority, mostly by Sunni extremists loyal to the Islamic State, is already providing Iran a pretext to increase its meddling in the country.

The attacks have received wide coverage in the Iranian news media. And one Fatemiyoun fighter who returned about three months ago from Syria said the violence against Afghan Shiites was a frequent topic raised by their commanders in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Continue reading the main story

The Afghan fighter had returned to his home in Yakawlang, a village in Bamian Province where the Taliban massacred more than 300 Shiites in 2001. Every year, hundreds of residents kneel on the dirt in a hilltop cemetery and beat their chests in mourning for their loved ones, their names listed on a metal sign worn out by time and covered in rust.

“The Guards commanders were saying that, if it comes to it, we will make Bamian into a base for you, a base for Fatemiyoun,” said the returning fighter, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being singled out for attack.

“There was always talk about that; the commander would say that one day you will go defend in your own country,” said another fighter, who had lived in Iran for 20 years as a refugee before he joined to go to Syria. He said he enlisted after he saw a video of Islamic State fighters “playing football with a chopped head.” His relatives said he joined after a romantic heartbreak.

Iran has long relied more on soft power than armed might in Afghanistan, playing up its cultural, religious and economic influence in western Afghan districts near the border. And though Iran resents the presence of the United States military on its border, it has mostly supported the American-backed administration in Kabul, choosing stability over chaos.

But as the war in Afghanistan has stretched late into a second decade, and with the stability of the central government in question, Iran has begun hedging its bets, American and Afghan officials say. That has extended to improving its ties with the Taliban, a group it had long seen as an ideological enemy.

Afghan officials acknowledge that they have not yet seen evidence that Iran was actively rallying Fatemiyoun veterans. But the officials are deeply concerned that the groundwork is being laid. And statements by Iran’s military leaders, as well as their use of Afghan fighters in other conflicts, suggests that Iran sees the force as an asset in future engagements.

Brig. Gen. Ismail Qaani, the deputy commander of the Quds force within the Revolutionary Guards, recently told a memorial for Afghan fighters that Syria was just a temporary goal in a larger vision.

Photo
Residents of Yakawlang, in the Afghan province of Bamian, held a mourning ceremony in October to commemorate a Taliban massacre of Shiites there in 2001. Credit Mujib Mashal/The New York Times

“Fatemiyoun is a new culture — a collection of brave men who do not see boundaries and borders in defending Islamic values,” General Qaani said, as quoted in the local Iranian media.

The war in Yemen is one indication of how Afghans are already being drawn deeper into the Iranian-Saudi rivalry, on both sides. Not only did Iran send smaller units of the Fatemiyoun to cross Syrian borders and fight in Yemen, but at least 1,000 Sunni Afghan refugees from camps in Pakistan have also been recruited to fight on Saudi Arabia’s behalf in Yemen, according to three senior Afghan officials.

The core of what is now the Fatemiyoun Division included fighters from Shiite militias that had Iranian support during the Afghan civil war. Some even went to Iraq to fight on behalf of Iran against Saddam Hussein, or to Lebanon to oppose the Israeli invasion.

Many of the Afghan fighters, mostly recruited from among Afghan refugees or illegal laborers in Iran, join for the salary of about $600 a month, and for the promise of Iranian residency paperwork after a deployment to Syria, which usually lasts three months. But they soon realize that the benefits are designed as a hook: The paperwork needs to be validated every year, and that requires enlisting again.

“Here, I am scared — of the government, of Daesh,” said one former Fatemiyoun fighter who has returned to Kabul, using another name for the Islamic State. “And if I don’t go back to Syria, my Iranian passport will lose validity.”

Afghan officials say the Iranian police have intensified a crackdown on illegal Afghan immigrants, arresting as many as 200 a day. When they arrive at deportation centers, Iranian military officers are there to offer another option.

“They said: ‘You had come from Afghanistan to work, to make money. We give you two options: You go to Syria, and we pay you money. Or you go back to your country,’” said the former fighter in Yakawlang, who asked to be identified only as Jawed. He was detained while working at an Iranian construction site and taken to a deportation center where, out of 200 Afghan detainees, he became one of about 60 who chose to serve in Syria. After returning to Afghanistan, he joined the Afghan Army.

Extensive ideological indoctrination is a central part of their service. Recruits are told the war in Syria is a defense of some of the holiest shrines of the Shiite faith from attack by the Islamic State — a group their recruiters then describe as a creation of the United States to destabilize the Middle East.

“My intention was Syria, to defend the shrine,” said the Afghan fighter who returned to his home in Yakawlang, and who wanted to be identified only by the name Abas.

Abas described his fellow Afghan fighters being pitched into battles that resembled the brutality of the Afghan civil war.

“You know how the Afghan boys fight — they wouldn’t even leave a chicken behind,” he said. “A unit leader would say, ‘We will capture this hill. What is in it for us? We want this much money.’ Three hundred people would go, 30 would come back.”

Other fighters described similarly heavy casualties. One said 15 of his comrades were killed on the first night they arrived at the front lines. And Jawed said there was a day when his unit lost 45 men.

“They tell you are defending the shrine of Zainab, and that is true: We believe in defending our religion and faith,” Jawed said. “But when you get there, you realize you have been brought to the slaughterhouse of a war of major powers.”

Continue reading the main story

YAKAWLANG, Afghanistan — Iran has trained and deployed thousands of Shiite Afghans as shock troops in Syria’s sectarian war. Members of the Afghan unit, the Fatemiyoun Division, wear a shoulder patch recounting words of praise from Iran’s supreme leader as a badge of honor.

What those fighters might do when they come home is now very much on the minds of officials who fear that Afghanistan may become the next great sectarian battleground between Iran, as the declared guardian of Shiites, and Saudi Arabia, long the sponsor of conservative Sunni doctrine around the world.

“This is quite dangerous: What happens to this Fatemiyoun force when the war in Syria is over?” said Rahmatullah Nabil, a former Afghan intelligence chief. “The fear is that rivalry in the region, between Iran and Saudi, will shift to Afghanistan. And I think that clash is already shifting here.”

There is reason for worry. First, there’s a history: The factional divisions that drove Afghanistan’s devastating civil war in the 1990s were seized on by foreign powers who were seeking proxies. And there’s a new concern: A stark increase in attacks against Afghanistan’s Shiite minority, mostly by Sunni extremists loyal to the Islamic State, is already providing Iran a pretext to increase its meddling in the country.

The attacks have received wide coverage in the Iranian news media. And one Fatemiyoun fighter who returned about three months ago from Syria said the violence against Afghan Shiites was a frequent topic raised by their commanders in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The Afghan fighter had returned to his home in Yakawlang, a village in Bamian Province where the Taliban massacred more than 300 Shiites in 2001. Every year, hundreds of residents kneel on the dirt in a hilltop cemetery and beat their chests in mourning for their loved ones, their names listed on a metal sign worn out by time and covered in rust.

“The Guards commanders were saying that, if it comes to it, we will make Bamian into a base for you, a base for Fatemiyoun,” said the returning fighter, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being singled out for attack.

“There was always talk about that; the commander would say that one day you will go defend in your own country,” said another fighter, who had lived in Iran for 20 years as a refugee before he joined to go to Syria. He said he enlisted after he saw a video of Islamic State fighters “playing football with a chopped head.” His relatives said he joined after a romantic heartbreak.

Iran has long relied more on soft power than armed might in Afghanistan, playing up its cultural, religious and economic influence in western Afghan districts near the border. And though Iran resents the presence of the United States military on its border, it has mostly supported the American-backed administration in Kabul, choosing stability over chaos.

But as the war in Afghanistan has stretched late into a second decade, and with the stability of the central government in question, Iran has begun hedging its bets, American and Afghan officials say. That has extended to improving its ties with the Taliban, a group it had long seen as an ideological enemy.

Afghan officials acknowledge that they have not yet seen evidence that Iran was actively rallying Fatemiyoun veterans. But the officials are deeply concerned that the groundwork is being laid. And statements by Iran’s military leaders, as well as their use of Afghan fighters in other conflicts, suggests that Iran sees the force as an asset in future engagements.

Brig. Gen. Ismail Qaani, the deputy commander of the Quds force within the Revolutionary Guards, recently told a memorial for Afghan fighters that Syria was just a temporary goal in a larger vision.

“Fatemiyoun is a new culture — a collection of brave men who do not see boundaries and borders in defending Islamic values,” General Qaani said, as quoted in the local Iranian media.

The war in Yemen is one indication of how Afghans are already being drawn deeper into the Iranian-Saudi rivalry, on both sides. Not only did Iran send smaller units of the Fatemiyoun to cross Syrian borders and fight in Yemen, but at least 1,000 Sunni Afghan refugees from camps in Pakistan have also been recruited to fight on Saudi Arabia’s behalf in Yemen, according to three senior Afghan officials.

The core of what is now the Fatemiyoun Division included fighters from Shiite militias that had Iranian support during the Afghan civil war. Some even went to Iraq to fight on behalf of Iran against Saddam Hussein, or to Lebanon to oppose the Israeli invasion.

Many of the Afghan fighters, mostly recruited from among Afghan refugees or illegal laborers in Iran, join for the salary of about $600 a month, and for the promise of Iranian residency paperwork after a deployment to Syria, which usually lasts three months. But they soon realize that the benefits are designed as a hook: The paperwork needs to be validated every year, and that requires enlisting again.

“Here, I am scared — of the government, of Daesh,” said one former Fatemiyoun fighter who has returned to Kabul, using another name for the Islamic State. “And if I don’t go back to Syria, my Iranian passport will lose validity.”

Afghan officials say the Iranian police have intensified a crackdown on illegal Afghan immigrants, arresting as many as 200 a day. When they arrive at deportation centers, Iranian military officers are there to offer another option.

“They said: ‘You had come from Afghanistan to work, to make money. We give you two options: You go to Syria, and we pay you money. Or you go back to your country,’” said the former fighter in Yakawlang, who asked to be identified only as Jawed. He was detained while working at an Iranian construction site and taken to a deportation center where, out of 200 Afghan detainees, he became one of about 60 who chose to serve in Syria. After returning to Afghanistan, he joined the Afghan Army.

Extensive ideological indoctrination is a central part of their service. Recruits are told the war in Syria is a defense of some of the holiest shrines of the Shiite faith from attack by the Islamic State — a group their recruiters then describe as a creation of the United States to destabilize the Middle East.

“My intention was Syria, to defend the shrine,” said the Afghan fighter who returned to his home in Yakawlang, and who wanted to be identified only by the name Abas.

Abas described his fellow Afghan fighters being pitched into battles that resembled the brutality of the Afghan civil war.

“You know how the Afghan boys fight — they wouldn’t even leave a chicken behind,” he said. “A unit leader would say, ‘We will capture this hill. What is in it for us? We want this much money.’ Three hundred people would go, 30 would come back.”

Other fighters described similarly heavy casualties. One said 15 of his comrades were killed on the first night they arrived at the front lines. And Jawed said there was a day when his unit lost 45 men.

“They tell you are defending the shrine of Zainab, and that is true: We believe in defending our religion and faith,” Jawed said. “But when you get there, you realize you have been brought to the slaughterhouse of a war of major powers.”

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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Syria

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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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
kurdistan8 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...

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