A US plan to establish military observation posts in Syria near the border with Turkey is designed to prevent Ankara from launching an all-out military assault on positions held by Washington's Kurdish allies, according to experts.
However, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis is trying to cast the plan as a favour to Turkey, saying that the move is not meant to undermine Ankara's interests in the war-ravaged country.
“We are putting observation posts in several locations up along the northern Syrian border because we want to be the people who call the Turks and warn them if we see something coming out of an area that we’re operating in,” Mr Mattis said last week after his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar complained about the move.
The US plan does not involve adding more troops to an estimated 2500 contingent in Syria, but it would expand US military presence along the Turkish-Syrian border and could act as a buffer against attempts by Ankara to push into Kurdish-held parts of Syria's north.
Last month, the Turkish military shelled positions held by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Kobane region, ahead of a planned military assault that never materialized due largely to Washington's diplomatic efforts.
Ankara is reportedly mulling a 30 km corridor and safe zones in that area, but the plan may be thwarted if the US assumed responsibility for parts of the border.
Turkey considers the YPG militia an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has led an insurgency in Turkey for more than three decades.
The US has worked closely with the YPG in the fight against ISIS in Syria, straining relations between Washington and Ankara.
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