Arizona Republican Senator John McCain said on Thursday that he foresees “a train wreck” betweeen the U.S., Turkey, and Kurdish forces in Syria if the Trump administration does not address the tensions between the Kurds and Turkey.
“Unless something changes, I foresee a train wreck here, and I’m not sure that the administration recognizes how seriously particularly [Turkish] President Erdogan views the threat that the Kurds pose,” he said.
McCain’s comments came during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which he chairs, as he was questioning General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command.
In recent weeks, Turkish and Kudish forces in northern Syrian have begun to clash. Turkey considers the Kurdish forces as terrorists that are essentially an extension of Turkish Kurdish separatists.
On the other hand, the United States believes that the Syrian Kurds are the most effective partner on the ground in Syria. The escalating tensions come at a time when the U.S. is trying to figure out how best to retake Raqqa from ISIS, which includes deciding whether and to what extent the Kurds and Turks should be a part of the effort.
McCain noted that a recent meeting with Erdogan had impressed upon him how “passionately opposed” Erdogan is to the Kurdish forces that the U.S. views as a partner.
“I’m not sure there’s an understanding of how seriously Erdogan views this issue, and I’m not sure we appreciate the role that Turkey plays in our effort to retake Raqqa, particularly in the use of Incirlik and other activities that require Turkish cooperation,” the Arizona Senator said referring to the Turkish airbase that the U.S. uses to launch missions against the Islamic State.
Responding to the Senator’s question on whether he agrees that the U.S. should be concerned about conflict between Turkey and the Kurds, Votel said that he does agree adding “To that end, we are trying to take actions to prevent that from occurring.”
However, when asked about who was going to “sort all this out,” Votel did not have a definitive answer, only saying that it has to involve both military and political efforts.