Attacks on Afrin complicate fight against IS -- U.S. intelligence chief

by Wladimir van Wilgenburg   CNN  


Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, warned on Tuesday in a Senate Committee Hearing that Turkish attacks on Afrin complicate the fight against Islamic State (IS).

“Turkey will seek to thwart Kurdish ambitions in the Middle East and the ongoing Turkish incursion into Northern Syria is complicating ongoing counter-ISIS activities in the region,” he said.

Furthermore, the US top intelligence chief added it could endanger US troops in northern Syria.

“[It] increase the risk to U.S. forces located in the area,” he added.

The Turkish president President Erdogan threatened US forces in northern Syria with an ‘Ottoman slap’, after US generals said they would defend themselves against any attack.

US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Tuesday refused to comment on Erdogan’s statements.  “As funny as the comment was that you explained to me, I’m not going to respond to every foreign leader’s comment,” she said.

Also US Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis on Tuesday said that in a group meeting in Rome with the Turkish Minister of Defense they discussed Afrin and that the US is worried on distractions from the IS fight.

“We all spoke with the Turkish minister of defence today.  He laid out the rationale.  We laid out the rationale for working this to a solution that took into account Turkey's legitimate security concerns, and we'll still work it,” he said.

“The point I would make here is that ISIS is not done.  We've kept saying that the fight is not over.  I've said that now for two months, and you just have to recognize, the fighting goes on. That's why we want to stay focused on it,” he added.

The US intelligence official also warned that the Islamic State is still dangerous. “However, ISIS remains a threat and will likely focus on regrouping in Iraq and Syria, particularly in ungoverned portions of those countries, enhancing its global presence, championing its cause, planning international attacks and encouraging members and sympathizers to attack their home countries,” Dan Coats said.

Moreover, the US intelligence chief said Syria will continue to face unrest and fighting throughout 2018, ‘even as Damascus recaptures urban areas and violence decreases in some areas,” he added.