Mattis says Turkey is fighting in the wrong part of Syria

Laura Christensen
January 25, 2018

"Whether it is Manbij, Afrin, the east of the Euphrates or even threats from northern Iraq, it doesn't matter", he said.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on global law, UN Security Council's decisions, self-defense rights under the UN charter and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

Sinam Mohamed, chief envoy of the "Rojava self-ruled Democratic Administration" which runs several cantons in the Kurdish-majority north of Syria, said she fears for her family in Afrin.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkish borders and the region as well as to protect the Syrian people from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.

Differences over Syria policy have already strained Turkey's relations with Washington nearly to a breaking point. The Syrian Kurdish militia has been the closest US ally in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

The flashpoint is a town in northern Syria called Manbij, occupied by the Syrian Kurds and their US military advisers. They were deployed there last March to deter Turkish and US -backed rebels from attacking each other and have also carried out training missions in Manbij.

Turkey will return the Syrian refugees, the number of which exceeds three million in Turkey, back to their homeland, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, the country's media reported January 24.

Unlike Afrin, where no United States forces are stationed, there are some 2,000 U.S. military personnel deployed in the eastern region of Manbij, which extends for 400km along Turkey's border.

"It's a fact that USA forces are seriously involved in creating alternative government bodies in a vast part of the Syrian territory", Lavrov said.

"We are in full readiness to respond to any attack".

"They told us many times that once [the] Daesh threat is eliminated, there won't be any more support - military support - to PYD, YPG", said Ibrahim Kalın, a senior adviser and spokesperson for Erdogan, naming Kurdish groups.

At least 27 civilians, including eight children and four women, have been killed in the fighting in Afrin, mainly in Turkish airstrikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the civil war.

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The Turkish ground and air offensive on Afrin raises tensions in the already-complicated Syrian conflict. Ankara reminded that a crucial force within the SDF are Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which are linked to the "terrorist group" PKK.

Turkish forces might next target the Kurdish-held town of Manbij in northern Syria alongside Ankara's current campaign in Afrin, Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday. Turkey says it's protecting itself against the Syrian Kurdish organization known as the PKK, which dominates Afrin and which Turkey regards as a terrorist group. In addition, rockets have been fired into bordering Turkish towns from within Syria.

Authorities in Afrin have ordered the closure of exit points with surrounding areas, and are only allowing people to enter from Syrian government-held areas to the south, according to the United Nations.

With heavy cloud hindering air support in the last 24 hours, advances have been limited and Kurdish fighters have retaken some territory.

About 10,000 Syrian rebels are reportedly taking part in the offensive, while Turkish officials estimate that there are between 8,000 and 10,000 YPG fighters in Afrin.

"Turkey has not been able yet to shore up its control over any of the villages it has advanced on", said the Observatory's Abdulrahman.

In the YPG-controlled area on the other bank of the Euphrates but still exposed to the long Turkish frontier, fighters are increasingly bitter about the USA role.

Afrin is separated from Manbij and the rest of the territory held by the Kurdish-led forces by a strip of land held by Assad's government forces.

According to Pentagon estimates, the YPG contributes 27,000 troops to the 50,000-strong Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are supported by the United States in fighting the Syrian government as well as ISIS.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said theoffensive distracted from efforts to defeat Islamic State.

The US hopes to use the YPG's control in northern Syria to give it the diplomatic muscle it needs to revive UN-led talks in Geneva on a deal that would end Syria's civil war.

Other reports by My Hot News

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