The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Mark Milley, only met with US troops during a visit to northeast Syria, the spokesperson of the US State Department, Ned Price, said on Monday.
The department’s spokesperson Ned Price commented on Milley’s visit, after the Turkish foreign ministry on Monday summoned the US ambassador, demanding an explanation for the visit of a top US general to Kurdish-controlled areas in northeast Syria.
“We can confirm that Ambassador Flake did go the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs today for meetings and for discussions. Of course, when it comes to General Milley’s visit, we’d refer you to the Department of Defence. However, it’s our understanding that General Milley met only with US troops while in Syria. It was an interaction only with American service members,” Price said.
A reporter followed up, telling Price that his statement contradicted with the reports in the media that suggested a meeting between Milley and Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Ankara sees as a national threat. The reporter again requested an explanation for the visit, mentioning that the “US army chief does not just pop up anywhere around the world”.
“But the US Army chief does pop up around the world to visit with US service members. That’s what he did in this context. Our service members are deployed in Syria in service of a goal that we share with Turkey as well as with our other allies as well as with all members of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS,” Price responded, mentioning the Islamic State (ISIS), which was defeated in northeast Syria mainly by the efforts of Kurdish fighters.
“Our service members in Syria serve one function and only one function; that is to see to it that the enduring defeat of ISIS is cemented and that ISIS isn’t able to regain a pivotal foothold that they once had in places like Syria, in places like Iraq,” Price sad, adding that this goal also serves Turkey’s interests as well as all countries in the global coalition.
“So no, it is not unusual for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to visit with US service members who are deployed, in many cases deployed in harm’s way potentially and making sacrifices on behalf of their fellow Americans, but also on behalf of people around the world,” he said.