The U.S.’s top soldier Gen. Joseph Dunford and Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar discussed joint strategies against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during the former’s surprise visit to Ankara on Nov. 6, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said in a statement. The two top soldiers discussed the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) recent operation to capture ISIL’s de facto Syrian capital Raqqa and the ongoing Mosul operation in Iraq, the military said.
They also discussed the actions of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) in Syria and Iraq and the risks of sectarian clashes in the region, along with the clearing of Manbij from PYD/YPG, according to the statement.
The military said Gen. Akar also voiced Ankara’s disturbance over the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen’s activities in the country during the meeting. Gülen is accused of orchestrating the July 15 coup attempt. The chiefs of general staff of Turkey and the U.S. met in the second recent meeting on Nov. 6 upon a request on the U.S. side. They held extensive talks in Washington D.C. last month. Gen. Dunford’s visit came soon after SDF began a long-waited operation to capture Raqqa from the jihadist group. The SDF is dominated by YPG militia, which Ankara says is an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Ankara has stressed that the Kurds’ main militia should not be involved at all in the Raqqa offensive if the U.S. wants Turkey’s contribution.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter earlier said he was looking for ways that Turkey could take part in the Raqqa operation and praised its intervention in Syria so far for taking territory from ISIL.
Turkey’s own intervention in Syria in support of rebel groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) banner sought to drive ISIL from positions it had used to shell Turkish towns, and also to stop YPG expansion there.
When Turkey intervened in Syria in August, the SDF had just captured Manbij, leaving it poised to close the 70 kilometer (45 mile) gap separating two Kurdish enclaves along the Turkish frontier, something Ankara was determined to prevent.
Turkey has repeatedly insisted that the YPG and PYD should quit Manbij, something that both they and the U.S. have said has already happened.