Turkish Troops Attack U.S.-Backed Kurds in Syria, a Clash of NATO Allies

“The U.S. has tried to walk a very fine line in Syria, depending heavily on the Kurdish rebels in the fight against the so-called Islamic State, while not rupturing the already strained relations between Turkey and the U.S.” mentioned Ali Soufan, a former F.B.I. counterterrorism agent who’s now chairman of The Soufan Group.

“As the battlefield shrinks in Syria, the line has become near impossible to maintain, and the U.S. will likely have to either dramatically scale back its support of the Kurdish rebels — which would be seen as yet another U.S. betrayal of the few groups that have consistently supported and helped the U.S. in Syria and Iraq — or risk indirect and even direct conflict with Turkey, a fellow NATO member.”

The Turkish assault additionally highlights the deepening ties between Russia and Turkey. That relationship appears to have recovered from the nadir it hit in November 2015, when the Turks shot down a Russian fighter aircraft over Syria, however has warmed significantly since then. Analysts say that Moscow, which controls the skies in the world, virtually actually needed to give the go-ahead for the Turkish assault on the Kurds.

Turkish Assault on Kurdish-Held Part of Syria

Russia has good cause to offer the Turkish assault its blessing. It stands to realize in quite a few methods, analysts say — first by sowing discord between the United States and its two allies, Turkey and the Kurds, and extra broadly by extending diplomatic affect in the area.

Analysts additionally speculate that Turkey, in return for Moscow’s forbearance, has agreed to show a blind eye to Russian and Syrian assaults on Syrian rebels in Idlib Province, who’re nominally allied with Turkey towards the Syrian authorities.

Turkish fighter jets bombed Kurdish militia targets round Afrin on Sunday. Ten folks had been reported killed in the bombing raids, in line with Kurdish militants, and three folks died on the Turkish facet of the border in retaliatory shelling, native folks mentioned.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of Turkey mentioned the forces meant to create a safety zone about 18 miles deep inside Syria. The space would embody city facilities, together with town of Afrin, with a predominantly Kurdish inhabitants, and the a lot bigger metropolis of Manbij, additional east, in addition to dozens of outlying villages.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has vowed to eradicate “terrorist nests” in the Kurdish enclave, however on Sunday he promised that the operation could be swift. “Hopefully, we will complete this operation in a very short time,” he mentioned in a speech to the ladies’s department of his Justice and Development Party in town of Bursa.

“The real issue here is to deliver Afrin to its real owners,” Mr. Erdogan mentioned. He mentioned that “we have 3.5 million Syrians in our lands” and that Turkey wished “to send our Syrian brothers back to their own land as soon as possible.”

Mr. Erdogan’s feedback got here throughout rising worldwide dismay over Turkey’s intervention, and reviews of Syrian fighters gathering to affix the battle on either side.

Members of the Free Syrian Army have been becoming a member of to battle alongside Turkish troops. Many of them are refugees from Arab villages and cities in the area.

At the identical time, a whole lot of Kurdish fighters from the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been main the battle towards the Islamic State in Syria, had been assembling in cities to the east and south of Afrin, in line with The Associated Press.

Syrian Kurds demonstrating Sunday in the city of Amuda towards the Turkish navy motion.

Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A shopkeeper in Raqqa, who requested to not be named out of concern for his security, mentioned by textual content message that a giant quantity of Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces had been being despatched from Raqqa to Manbij to organize for a Turkish assault. His cousin was amongst 1,000 fighters gathered in Manbij and commanders had been telling them an assault was imminent.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson spoke by phone together with his Turkish and Russian counterparts on Saturday to specific concern in regards to the scenario, a State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, mentioned in a assertion.

“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties,” the assertion mentioned.

France referred to as for an emergency United Nations Security Council assembly to debate the developments and likewise urged Turkey to behave with restraint, noting that the humanitarian scenario was deteriorating in a number of areas of Syria.

Turkish officers have repeatedly criticized the United States for its help and arming of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, referred to as the Y.P.G., that are spearheading the battle towards the Islamic State in Syria. Yet they made clear Sunday they didn’t wish to confront American troops in Syria.

Mr. Yildirim mentioned Turkish forces would search to destroy any logistics provide routes to Kurdish models, however Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag mentioned United States officers had assured Turkey there have been no American troops in the area.

“It is out of the question to have a direct clash between Turkey and the U.S. in the region,” he mentioned at a information briefing for worldwide reporters Sunday.

By dusk Turkish troops appeared to have superior solely a few miles into Syria.

Syrian fighters allied with Turkish forces claimed to have seized management of Shankal, a village on the northwestern edge of the Afrin district, however Kurdish fighters rejected the declare.

Casualties had been reported from either side, however numbers diversified.

Hanadi Hafsi, a homemaker who lives in Reyhanli, a border district in Turkey, mentioned two Syrians and a Turk died Sunday afternoon from shelling by Kurdish militias. The shells fell on a market, killing three and wounding 32, she mentioned. Turkish officers mentioned that just one Syrian had refugee died and that 37 folks had been wounded.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the “indiscriminate rocket fire by #PYD/#YPG terrorists” in a Twitter put up. “This attack on innocent people shows the real face of #PYD terrorists.”

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