The US State Department in its Human Trafficking (TIP) 2021 stated that Turkey’s Sultan Murad Division in Syria, a faction of the Syrian opposition that has long supported Ankara, and a group that Washington allegedly recruited and deployed, “is tangible Support “is provided by child soldiers.
There was no immediate response from Turkey.
In a briefing session with reporters, a senior State Department official also pointed out the use of child soldiers in Libya and said Washington hopes to work with Ankara on the matter to address the issue.
“With regard to Turkey in particular … this is the first time a NATO member has been included in the list of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act,” said the State Department official. “As a respected regional leader and a NATO member, Turkey has an opportunity to address this issue – the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Syria and Libya,” she said.
Turkey has carried out three cross-border operations in Syria against the so-called Islamic State and the US-backed Kurdish militia, and has often deployed factions of armed Syrian fighters in addition to its own forces.
Some of these groups have been accused by human rights groups and the United Nations of indiscriminately attacking civilians, kidnapping and looting. The United Nations asked Ankara to contain these Syrian rebels, while Turkey denied the allegations, calling them “baseless”.
Turkey is also involved in the Libya conflict through representatives and its own armed forces. Ankara’s support has helped the Tripoli-based government reverse a 14-month attack by eastern troops backed by Egypt and Russia.
Governments on this list are subject to restrictions on certain security assistance and commercial licenses for military equipment, unless the president has a derogation, according to the State Department report.
It was not immediately clear whether restrictions would automatically apply to Turkey, and the move raised the question of whether it could destroy Ankara’s ongoing negotiations with Washington on Turkey’s offer to operate Afghanistan’s Kabul airport as soon as they did USA have completed their troop withdrawal.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the two things likely would not be linked. “When it comes to trafficking in human beings, I do not want to link the report today to the constructive discussions we are having with Turkey on Afghanistan or any other area of common concern,” he said in a briefing.
Turkey has offered to guard and operate Hamid Karzai Airport after the withdrawal of NATO and has held talks with the US on logistical and financial support for the mission.
The mission could be a potential area of cooperation between Ankara and its allies in the face of strained relations, as airport security is vital to the operation of diplomatic missions from Afghanistan after the departure.
To accomplish this task, Ankara has asked for various financial and operational assistance, and President Joe Biden said at a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan last month that US assistance is imminent, Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.
Price described Turkey as “a very constructive and very helpful partner” on Afghanistan, adding that Washington could say more about the impact.
“As you know, there is a possibility of waivers that would come from the president, but that will happen in the coming months,” he said.
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