His visit comes as the US’ support for the Kurdish forces has come into question after the Turkish army launched its military operation Euphrates Shield to clear Islamic State (ISIS) militants from the border and to stop Kurdish advances west of the Euphrates River.
McGurk met with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition force dominated by the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG).
The State Department spokesperson said McGurk promised “ongoing US support for the SDF in the fight against ISIL [ISIS], while emphasizing the need for strict adherence to prior commitments,” referring to an agreement between Washington and Ankara that Kurdish forces would retreat to the east bank of the Euphrates on the conclusion of the operation to liberate the northern Syrian town of Manbij.
McGurk also met with Turkish officials last week, the spokesperson confirmed. They discussed Turkey’s Euphrates Shield operation and the US support for it, as well as “planning for the Mosul campaign in Iraq, and closer US and Turkish cooperation to accelerate ISIL’s ultimate defeat.”
“In all of his meetings, he encouraged unity of effort and de-confliction between all forces fighting ISIL in northern Syria,” the spokesperson added.
Turkish and SDF forces have clashed in northern Syria, something US officials have described as “unacceptable.”
The Americans’ chief desire is to see all parties focused on fighting ISIS, rather than pointing their guns at each other. “What we have made clear is that our support to all parties is contingent upon the focus on ISIL,” a Department of Defense spokesperson told Rudaw last week. “And that will be how we will continue to do this.”