US, Turkey Open Coordination Center to Address Syrian Border Issues

The US and Turkey are working out of a “coordination center” in the Turkish capital of Ankara to manage potential conflict along the country’s border with Syria, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford said Aug. 28.

“This was set up in the recent days—United States European Command, Central Command, Turkish General Staff are now in a coordination center inside of Ankara,” Dunford told reporters at a Pentagon press briefing. “We’ve also made agreements to immediately address some of the threats along the border between Turkey and Syria, removal of heavy weapons and those kind of things.”

Officials in the coordination center are working out the specifics of joint border patrols as part of a deal struck between the US and Turkey for a “safe zone” in northeastern Syria that would move US-aligned Syrian Kurdish militias away from Turkey. Turkey wants to control a zone up to 25 miles deep within Syria and for Kurdish forces—which Turkey sees as terrorists—to leave its border region, according to the Associated Press.

The main US-backed Syrian Kurds are withdrawing fighters from two towns near the border as part of the safe zone agreement, the AP reported Aug. 27.

“We’re trying to maintain continuity in our campaign against ISIS in Syria” while “trying to address what are legitimate concerns by the Turkish government for the border between Turkey and Syria,” Dunford said.

Dunford said he and Defense Secretary Mark Esper have spoken to their Turkish counterparts and agreed on a “broad approach” to address issues along the border.

“Every day, we’re going to grow this capacity,” Dunford continued. “The whole purpose of setting up the coordination center is so we can drive down to the appropriate tactical level between commanders the specific actions we’ll take every day to eliminate the threats.”