U.S. Special Forces that advise and assist the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are operating near Syrian-Turkish border, the U.S. Defense Department said Friday.
The photographs circulated by the pro-YPG Peoples' Protection Units social media accounts indicate that multiple American armored vehicles were allegedly deployed near the Turkish border, specifically around Tal Abyad where intense clashes between YPG forces and the Turkish military were still ongoing Friday.
The Turkish military said that it had killed 11 YPG militants after receiving RPG fire from YPG-held territories in Syria. There were no Turkish casualties.
Pentagon spokesperson and Navy Captain Jeff Davis said that U.S. Special Forces were working with the SDF in northern Syria, in a large swath of territory extending from Iraqi border to Manbij, and that the Turkish-Syrian border was among the operating area.
"We have U.S. forces that are there throughout the entirety of northern Syria that operate with our Syrian Democratic Force partners," Davis said, "the border is among the areas where they operate."
When asked if U.S. forces were deployed to the border to prevent the Turkish military from retaliating against cross-border attacks by the PKK/PYD, Davis brushed aside the question.
"We continue to urge all the parties involved to focus on the common enemy which is [Daesh]. That's everybody, including the SDF. Right now we want them to focus on Tabqa and Raqqa, and not be drawn in conflict elsewhere," he said.
The Pentagon deployed a number of forces in Manbij last March in a "deterrence and reassurance mission" to prevent Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces from taking over the territory from YPG-led SDF.
The new photos coming out of Tal Abyad suggest that the U.S. military decided to conduct a similar mission in the area against Turkish and YPG skirmishes, which began following Turkey's air strikes against PKK positions in Iraq's Sinjar and Syria's Derik.
Captain Davis said that the U.S. would like both the YPG and Turkey to stop the ongoing skirmishes along the Syrian border.
The Pentagon said that the clashes between Turkish and YPG forces didn't stall the ongoing operation near Tabqa and Raqqa. Responding to the question of whether the YPG had diverted its forces back to the Syrian border and stopped operating near Raqqa, Captain Davis said that the SDF was continuing its military operations as usual.