Kirby Says Turkey Has Right to Defend Itself, but Should Hold Off on Syria Operations

While speaking with reporters on Monday, United States National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that Turkey has the right to defend itself in the face of terrorist attacks, but should refrain from carrying out operations in Syria that would jeopardize the security situation or safety of American forces in country. This comes as Turkey launched a renewed airstrike campaign against the Kurds in northern Syria, who they blame for the November 13 Istanbul bombing, and threatens another ground force incursion into the region.

Kirby said that “Turkey continues to fall victim to terrorist attacks, whether its near that border or elsewhere inside the country. And they have a right to defend themselves and their citizens against attacks,”

“They have suffered terrorist attacks, but we don’t want to see actions, particularly inside Syria that are going to lead to potential for more casualties, more loss of innocent life, and any diminution from our efforts, a distraction away from our efforts, because we have troops in Syria, to go after ISIS,”

“We also don’t want to see the actions inside Syria by Turkey or anyone else that could put American lives at risk because there are Americans on the ground in there helping the SDF,” he added.

Turkey has ramped up airstrikes targeting Kurdish positions in Iraq and northern Syria in an operation coined “Claw-Sword,” which their Ministry of Defense describes as “the largest, most comprehensive and most effective air operation” against Kurdish forces “in the recent period.” Hundreds of strikes have been carried out since the operation began on November 20, which Turkey claims has resulted in upwards of 300 casualties against Kurdish forces. Kurdish officials and local media have reported civilian casualties during the strikes.

The renewed targeting of Kurdish positions comes in the aftermath of the November 13 Istanbul bombing, which left six dead and 80 wounded. Turkish authorities have accused the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of carrying out the attack and had pledged revenge. The PKK has denied involvement, further accusing Turkey of using the incident as a pretext for more military operations against the Kurds. Turkey considers the PKK, YPG, and SDF to be one in the same and denotes all armed Kurdish groups as terrorist organizations.

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