BEIRUT (AP) — Turkey’s president vowed Monday to maintain up the strain in opposition to a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia after his troops captured the Syrian city of Afrin, threatening to develop the army offensive into different Kurdish-held areas throughout northern Syria and even into neighboring Iraq.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared set on forcing Washington to rethink its partnership with the Syrian Kurdish fighters, the principle U.S. ally within the combat in opposition to the Islamic State group.
Turkey first launched its army operation in Syria in 2016, and Erdogan has repeatedly mentioned it is not going to permit a “terror hall” alongside its border — a reference to territories managed by the Kurdish forces, which Turkey views as terrorists due to their hyperlinks to Kurdish insurgents preventing inside Turkey.
Emboldened by Sunday’s seize of Afrin, Erdogan went even additional on Monday, asserting that Turkish troops and allied Syrian forces would press eastward, concentrating on territory that features Kobani, a city that has develop into a logo of the combat in opposition to the Islamic State militants, in addition to Qamishli, the place the Syrian authorities controls an airport and a safety zone.
Additionally within the cross hairs is Manbij, a city collectively patrolled by U.S- and Kurdish forces and the place U.S. bases are housed, triggering issues over potential friction with U.S. troops. Erdogan even threatened to focus on Iraq’s Sinjar mountains, utilized by Kurdish fighters to maneuver between Iraq and Syria, and which Turkey claims is a stronghold for the outlawed Kurdish rebels preventing an insurgency in its southeast.
“We’ll proceed this course of till we fully abolish this hall,” Erdogan mentioned. “One evening, we might instantly enter Sinjar.”
Nicholas Heras, a Center East Safety fellow on the Washington-based Heart for a New American Safety, mentioned the seize of Afrin was a “milestone” for Turkey in Syria however was not the top of its marketing campaign in opposition to the Kurdish militia, generally known as the Syrian Kurdish Folks’s Protection Items, or YPG.
“The ultimate vacation spot is a Turkish conflict on the Kurds all through northern and japanese Syria that destroys the YPG and forces the People to work by, with and thru Turkey” within the combat in opposition to IS and in Syria, he mentioned.
U.S. assist of Syria’s Kurdish militia, which Turkey views as a menace to its nationwide safety, has soured relations between the 2 NATO allies. Ankara has accused the U.S. of not fulfilling a promise to maneuver Syrian Kurdish fighters out of Manbij. Searching for to ease tensions, U.S. and Turkish officers held talks about Manbij earlier this month following a go to by outgoing U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson. However with Tillerson’s firing, the subsequent spherical of talks has been postponed.
Ozgur ‘Ünlühisarcikli’, the Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund of the US assume tank, mentioned the seize of Afrin had fulfilled Turkey’s intention of stopping the Kurdish militia from linking up its territories in japanese and western Syria, and Erdogan’s menace to develop the army operation was a bargaining chip geared toward Washington.
“Politically, although, it could be very tough to perform,” he mentioned.
Formidable guerrilla fighters, the YPG withdrew from Afrin on Sunday after a Turkish thrust into the city middle. They’ve vowed to proceed the combat, utilizing hit-and-run assaults in opposition to Turkish troops in Afrin.
Such an insurgency might show to be “a giant thorn” for the U.S. army operation in Syria, Heras mentioned. “A YPG insurgency in Afrin would immediate Turkey to escalate in opposition to the Kurds all through northern Syria, jeopardizing the U.S.-led mission to stabilize the areas captured” from IS militants, he mentioned.
Already, 1000’s of Kurdish fighters have been redeployed away from entrance traces with IS to participate within the Afrin battle, threatening to distract from the combat in opposition to the extremists.
Turkey’s state-run information company mentioned 11 individuals — seven civilians and 4 Turkish-backed Syrian fighters — have been killed on Monday in an explosion as a constructing within the city middle was being cleared of booby traps. Anadolu Information company mentioned the bomb was reportedly left by the Syrian Kurdish fighters.
The Turkish takeover of Afrin has triggered a humanitarian disaster as 1000’s of residents fled the city to government-held areas. As soon as a secure space for tens of 1000’s of displaced Syrians from different components of the battle, Afrin residents have develop into Syria’s new homeless.
The U.S. State Division mentioned it was “deeply involved” over the humanitarian state of affairs following Turkey’s seize of Afrin. The European Union’s prime diplomat additionally criticized the Turkish army offensive in Afrin, calling on Ankara to work to halt the preventing in Syria. Federica Mogherini advised reporters in Brussels that worldwide efforts in Syria needs to be geared toward “de-escalating the army actions and never escalating them.”
A senior Kurdish official, Aldar Khalil, referred to as the Turkish offensive an “occupation” that endangers “the entire of northern Syria.”
Erdogan insisted Turkey had no intention of “occupying” Syria, saying it was merely clearing the border space of terrorists.
However panic has already set in amongst Afrin’s residents, most of them Kurds, who concern Turkey will herald loyalists and among the three million Syrian refugees dwelling inside its borders to repopulate the city. Some 200,000 individuals fled Afrin in latest days because the Turkish offensive escalated, and whether or not they are going to be permitted to return stays an open query.
Many feared revenge assaults, amid stories of looting and abuse of residents within the city.
Photographs emerged of torched shops and males, some in uniform and others in civilian garments, strolling out of properties with family items. Others have been seen driving away with tractors and agriculture provides. A commander with the Turkey-backed Syrian forces blamed the looting on “thieves,” and mentioned a unit had been created to forestall additional theft.
Azad Mohamed, an Afrin resident who fled, mentioned looting was underway in close by villages even earlier than the Turkish forces entered the city.
“In the event that they haven’t but stolen my issues, they are going to in an hour,” he mentioned.
He mentioned concern of individuals taking on their properties has additionally fueled violent sentiments amongst Kurds. “Some are saying those that come settle in our properties have to be killed to forestall others from even occupied with it,” he mentioned.
Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Related Press author Lorne Cook dinner in Brussels contributed to this report.