The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday cut $35.8 million in the Iraq portion and another $18.3 million in the Syria portion of a defense fund used for the fight against Daesh and would have aided the PKK terrorist group and its Syrian wing, the YPG, that threaten Turkish borders.
The U.S. lawmakers passed the final $858 billion version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year of 2023 with a bipartisan 350 to 80 vote before sending it off to the Senate for final approval. The bill would bring the U.S. defense budget to a record as the nation seeks to boost its military competitiveness with China and Russia.
According to information compiled by Türkiye’s state media Anadolu Agency (AA) from over 4,000 pages of legislation, the House ratified the $487.5 million portion of the $541.6 million fund that was requested for U.S. allies, including the PKK’s Syrian offshoot, the YPG, in the campaign against the terrorist organization Daesh in Iraq and Syria. The bill accounts for the inflation disparity and raises the fund to $502.9 million in total by adding $15.4 million more.
The House deemed the $35.8 million of the total $358.1 million demanded from Iraq unjustified and ruled to spare only $322.2 million, the AA reporter found.
The House reached a similar conclusion about the fund reserved for the PKK/YPG in Syria, shaving some $18.3 million off the $183.6 million request. It approved $165.3 million for operations that also include the U.S. Army’s cooperation with the terrorist organization.
In previous discussions this week, the House also removed amendments from the final version of the bill making the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye contingent on a series of conditions, which Ankara hailed as “a positive development that would serve everyone’s interest.”
Ankara leads an intensive campaign in northern Syria and Iraq against terrorist groups like the PKK/YPG and Daesh.
Just last week, hundreds of U.S. troops who are in Syria as part of the fight against remnants of Daesh resumed regular patrols with YPG terrorists after reducing activities following the Turkish strikes that began on Nov. 20 in PKK/YPG-controlled areas of Syria and Iraq, in response to a deadly Istanbul bombing carried out by PKK/YPG terrorists.
Washington has been a continued backer of the YPG-dominated SDF, the YPG’s self-dubbed “army” in the area.
Türkiye and its Western allies designate the PKK and the YPG as terrorist groups who pose a major threat to Türkiye and terrorize local people, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee. The U.S.’ support for its Syrian affiliate thus has been a major strain on bilateral relations with Ankara.
Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, Washington has supplied military training and given truckloads of military support to YPG terrorists, despite its NATO ally’s security concerns. Emphasizing that one cannot support one terrorist group to defeat another, Türkiye conducted its own counterterrorism operations, over the course of which it has removed a significant number of terrorists from the region.
For the past month since two deadly PKK/YPG attacks on Turkish soil, one in Istanbul and the other in the southeastern provinces, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been threatening a ground operation in PKK/YPG-controlled zones of northern Syria and Iraq, to which U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed “strong opposition.”
Türkiye is more determined than ever to secure its Syrian border from attacks by YPG terrorists, Erdoğan said last week, insisting that a ground campaign would start “at the most convenient time” and that its air offensive Operation Claw-Sword aiming to clear from terrorists was “just the beginning.”
“We’re committed to protecting our borders and rid Syria’s Tal Rifaat and Manbij areas of terrorist threats and we won’t seek anyone’s permission for it,” Erdoğan said. He argued that the U.S. and Russia failed to live up to their promises to provide a safe zone in the border region, referring to the 2019 agreement between the three countries for Moscow and Washington to remove terrorists 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from the Turkish border.
Separately, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar declared last Thursday that Türkiye was “issuing the necessary warnings to allied countries to keep terrorists away from their areas and cut off all ties with terrorist groups as soon as possible.”
“Türkiye warns allied countries not to support the PKK/YPG terrorist group for any reason, including in the pretext of fighting Daesh. They should not let terrorists wear and use their countries’ flags and uniforms,” Akar said.
Ankara has long emphasized cooperation and solidarity in the fight against terrorism will contribute to regional and global peace and security.