Turkey 'will expand its Kurdish offensive' to Iraq border

27 January, 2018, 20:26 | Author: Edward Snyder
  • Seven terrorists captured during Turkey's Afrin operation

The Turkish air and ground offensive as part of Operation Olive Branch is meant to crush Kurdish YPG (People's Protection Unit) fighters near the Turkish border. "We will rid Manbij of terrorists, as it was promised to us, and our battles will continue until no terrorist is left until our border with Iraq", Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara.

For its part, Ankara relies on the ground for its offensive in Afrin in several Syrian rebel groups, majority members of the Islamist movements, which accuse the Kurdish militias of dividing Syria by establishing its own entity in the north of the country.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, speaking from Indonesia, said Turkey gave the USA military advance notice of its airstrikes against Kurdish targets in northern Syria.

The Easter Ghouta suburb of Damascus has been under intensive attack, and the United Nations says government forces are holding 400,000 people under siege there. An expansion of Turkey's ground and aerial assault on the YPG to Manbij could result in conflict with USA troops.

Two people, a Turk and a Syrian, were killed on Wednesday after two rockets fired from Syria by the YPG landed in the border town of Kilis, the local governor said.

The current Turkish military operation against Afrin and the very recent failed Kurdish independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, have shown that worldwide and regional powers have no willingness to see any Kurdish national or autonomist aspirations come to fruition. As columnist Caroline Glick notes, "Kurds, ISIS and Syrian regime forces have all destroyed Turkish tanks".

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters started operations last week against the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin, approaching from three sides and meeting stiff resistance from the US -allied Kurdish militia that controls the enclave.

The SDF is an umbrella grouping composed mainly of YPG. Ankara views the YPG as a terror group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) inside Turkey.

The death toll from the offensive in the Afrin region stands at 18 civilians, including women and children, the spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia alliance said on Monday. It also has its sights set on Manbij and its countryside, leading observers to believe that it is seeking to control the regions extending from the Idlib province's eastern borders with Turkey in northwest Syria and the western banks of the Euphrates in northern Aleppo. President Donald Trump reportedly warned Erdogan to avoid "destructive and false rhetoric" in a phone call with the Turkish leader this week, a statement Ankara claims Trump never issued.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Afrin operation would be followed by another against Manbij.

Erdogan also accused the Syrian Kurdish militia of using civilians as human shields in Afrin to try to slow down the advance of the Turkish forces and of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters. They see that it is part of "Turkey's enmity towards the Kurds".



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