“That’s the headline. But what did you do? You paid a lot of dollars to [ISIS],” Erdogan said, as cited by AFP.
It’s not the first time Erdogan has called out Washington for enabling terrorists. Last December, the Turkish president caused quite a stir in the media, claiming that Turkey had “confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos and videos,” of the US supporting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) and Kurdish militias, outlawed as terrorist in Turkey.
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Erdogan’s comments come just days after the BBC revealed on Monday that the US-backed SDF allowed hundreds of ISIS militants to escape Raqqa with the silent approval of their coalition allies that preferred not to intervene. Truck drivers interviewed by the BBC said they were offered thousands of dollars to secretly transport ISIS fighters and “tons of weapons and ammunition” out of the city. At the time of the exodus, neither SDF, nor the coalition acknowledged their involvement in the deal, reportedly struck by local officials mid-October.
When confronted by the BBC, US-led coalition spokesman Col Ryan Dillon admitted that “a Western officer” was present as the deal was being arranged, but “didn’t take an “active part” in the talks, he told the BBC. While the extent of the US involvement in the deal is up to speculation, Dillon noted that part of the agreement was to allow the coalition to screen the “ISIS-aged males” and civilians. However, only four “foreign fighters” were detained by the SDF from some 3,500 people, 300 of which were identified as “potential ISIS fighters,” Dilon said.
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