The United States-led international coalition’s operation to recapture Raqqa from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) started on the night of June 2, Turkey’s prime minister has said, informing that Washington briefed Ankara ahead of the operation.
“The Raqqa operation, planned earlier, was launched on the night of June 2. The U.S. conveyed the necessary information on the issue before the start of the operation,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said, addressing representatives of media outlets in Ankara late on June 3.
The operation is being carried out with the participation of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) as the sole ground force, under the flag of the Syrian Democratic Forces, with strong aerial support from anti-ISIL coalition members. The YPG has long been attempting to surround Raqqa, the center of a self-declared Islamic Caliphate, and to cut all logistical channels in and out of the city. The U.S. administration started to provide weapons to the YPG upon a presidential order signed by Donald Trump in mid-May at the expense of angering its closest ally, Turkey.
But an official statement from the anti-ISIL coalition announcing the launch of the operation has not yet been made. Diplomatic sources confirmed to the Hürriyet Daily News that necessary information about the timetable for the Raqqa operation was shared with the Turkish government with a hint that the operation might begin as early as this weekend. But sources also recalled that there were many variables that affect the timing of a military operation.
Turkey does not approve YPG choice
Yıldırım reiterated that Turkey did not approve of the U.S. decision to use the YPG as the ground force in the Raqqa operation, recalling that this disturbance had been conveyed to the American administration at all levels. “They told us that this was not a decision but an obligation and that they won’t continue their cooperation with the YPG after this operation, as it was a tactical cooperation,” Yıldırım said.
The U.S. has also given assurances over Turkey’s concerns that the weapons provided to the YPG would not be used against Turkey by terror groups operating inside Turkey, Yıldırım said, “They have told us that they will specifically track [the use of weapons].”
Turkey to take own measures
Yıldırım repeated that Turkey would not hesitate to take its own measures in the event that the YPG or other groups in northern Syria pose a threat to its security.
“We have an unchanged strategy. Wherever they are, inside or outside the country, whatever their names are … all terror organizations are the same for us and they are all our targets. We won’t hesitate to take the necessary actions for our security inside and outside our country. We did it in the past and we’ll do again if necessary,” he said.
Describing the relationship between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the YPG as the kinship between an uncle and a niece, Yıldırım expressed his confidence that Turkey’s partners would one day realize this reality.
“Perhaps they know, but this does not serve their purposes. They perfectly know but they could not designate it as a terror organization because they are taking advantage of them,” he said.
Accusing some high-level U.S. officials who have kept their positions under the new Trump administration of prioritizing the YPG as the best means to fight ISIL, Yıldırım said: “They are making efforts to make Turkey consume its energy. But sooner or later, they will see that this stance will cost them dear in the future.”