Updated January 16
The United Kingdom is not involved in the new Syrian Border Security Force set up by the U.S.-led Coalition against Islamic State and the Syrian Democratic Forces, a foreign ministry spokesperson said.
“We are not involved in this particular line of Coalition effort. We remain clear that liberated areas must have long-term, legitimate and inclusive local governance and security structures,” a U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson told The Defense Post on Tuesday, January 16.
On Saturday, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs Officer Colonel Thomas F. Veale told The Defense Post that the Coalition and SDF were working jointly to train the 30,000-strong Syrian border security force. The BSF will be partly composed of veteran fighters and operate under the leadership of the SDF, the backbone of which is made of the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Turkey’s foreign ministry on Sunday said Turkey was not consulted on the establishment of the Border Security Forcce and that Turkey does not know which Coalition members approved the decision.
“To attribute such a unilateral step to the whole Coalition is an extremely wrong move that could harm the fight against Daesh,” the ministry said.
A spokesperson for the Coalition told The Defense Post that “Turkey is a valued Coalition member and NATO ally whose efforts have been instrumental in defeating Daesh in the region.”
The spokesperson said “individual nations and organizations determine their own contributions,” adding: “Discussions pertaining to Coalition actions are shared among those nations who have opted to support specific missions. We do not discuss those conversations and agreements openly.”
UK calls for all action in northern Syria to be coordinated through the Coalition
“We continue to discuss the complex situation in Northern Syria with Turkish officials, in line with our shared aim of reducing violence and enabling a political settlement,” the UK foreign office spokesperson told The Defense Post. “We call on all sides to refrain from escalating the situation and to focus on completing the fight against Daesh, coordinating their action through the Coalition.”
Turkish government figures have repeatedly said that Turkey will imminently conduct a military operation in northern Syria. On Saturday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly signalled an imminent military operations in Syria in the city of Manbij and the majority Kurdish canton of Efrin if the predominantly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) do not withdraw, saying “they will see what we’ll do in about a week.”
Erdogan reiterated his remarks on Sunday, saying, “In the coming days, God willing, we will continue with Afrin [operation] – that we started first with Euphrates Shield Operation -– to purge terrorism from our southern borders.”
“We expect from our allies that they behave in accordance with the spirit of our deep-rooted relationship during this process,” Erdogan said, adding “We expect them to support Turkey’s legitimate efforts.”
On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the decision to form the Syrian border security force under the leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces, calling the BSF a “a terrorist army.” Erdogan vowed to squash the new force, saying “Turkey will kill that army before it is born.”
On Tuesday, Erdogan said the Turkish military operation in Efrin will be conducted in cooperation with Syrian opposition groups.
Speaking to AK Party members in parliament, Erdogan also criticised NATO for not responding to YPG along the Turkish border. “You are duty-bound to strike a certain poise against anyone that harasses one of your partners,” he said.
.@coalition spokesperson reaction towards possible Turkish attack on Efrin: "Afrin is not located within the Coalition's area of operations"
— Wladimir (@vvanwilgenburg) January 16, 2018
This story was updated on January 16 to include Coalition comment.