ISTANBUL (Reuters) — Turkey’s army chief signaled no let up in a Syria offensive Washington has criticized for targeting US-backed Kurdish fighters as well as jihadists, and said its successes showed last month’s failed coup had not dented the military’s power.
Turkish-backed forces began the offensive last week by capturing the Syrian frontier town of Jarablus from Islamic State; they then advanced on areas controlled by Kurdish-aligned militias which have US support in battling jihadists.
Turkey, which is fighting a Kurdish insurgency at home, has openly said the operation dubbed “Euphrates Shield” has a dual goal of driving away Islamic State and preventing Kurdish forces extending their areas of control along the Turkish border.
Washington said the offensive by its NATO ally risked undermining the fight against Islamic State because it was focusing on Kurdish-aligned militias. Ankara says it will not take orders from anyone on how to protect the nation.
“By pursuing the Euphrates Shield operation, which is crucial for our national security and for our neighbors’ security, the Turkish Armed Forces are showing they have lost none of their strength,” Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar said in a statement on Tuesday to mark a national holiday.