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Turkey’s airstrikes not directed at Daesh: Pentagon chief

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter (C) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. testify before the House Armed Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on December 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has criticized Turkey for not using its air power properly since the Daesh (ISIL) terrorists first arose close to its border in Syria.

The Pentagon chief told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that most of the air attacks Turkey has launched so far are directed at PKK militants, not ISIL terrorists.

“Most of their air operations are not directed at ISIL,” Carter said. “They are directed at the PKK, which we understand their concern about — it’s a terrorist organization within their borders — but we would like to see them do more against ISIL.”

Ankara has also failed to control its borders “effectively,” Carter said. “I have been urging, actually, since I’ve come to this job, Turkey to do more.”

The US defense secretary said that Turkey’s geography makes it a useful asset to the US-led international coalition against Daesh, but Ankara has failed to show any significant performance in this regard.

 “We would like them to operate more both in the air and on the ground,” he said.

The United States and its regional allies, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have been backing militants fighting against the Syrian government.

On September 30, Russia began its military campaign against Daesh terrorists and militants fighting against the Syrian government. Moscow has carried out scores of airstrikes, killing hundreds of terrorists.

On November 24, Turkey shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer jet, claiming the aircraft had repeatedly violated its air space.

One of the Russian pilots was killed by militants after parachuting from the burning jet in Syria, while the second was saved by Syrian forces. One Russian soldier lost his life during the rescue operation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the aircraft had been attacked when it was 1 kilometer inside Syria. He warned of "serious consequences" and called it a “stab in the back” administered by "the accomplices of terrorists."

US sending more special forces to Mideast 

During his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, the Pentagon chief also announced plans to send a new Special Operations Force to the Middle East under the pretext of fighting Daesh terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

Carter said the unit has been assigned to conduct raids, free hostages and gather intelligence. He did not give the exact number of troops but said the new force will be larger than 50.

The United States has already deployed dozens of ground troops to Syria claiming they will assist Kurdish forces in their battle against Daesh. There are currently about 3,500 US troops in Iraq.

ISIL terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, control large parts of Syria and Iraq. They have been engaged in crimes against humanity in the areas under their control.

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