Turkey begins military offense against US-backed Kurdish forces
Turkey’s military says it has begun attacking Kurdish-held positions in Syria’s Afrin region, including reportedly firing on positions held by a group that the U.S. has backed in the past.
Reuters reports that the Turkish military fired on positions held by three Kurdish-majority groups including the YPG, a militia of Syrian Kurdish fighters that had been allied with coalition forces in the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Turkey views the group as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is considered by both Turkey and the U.S. to be a terrorist group.
Turkey’s operation in the Afrin region began Friday with shelling from Turkish forces, but the country’s defense minister stated that no Turkish forces have yet crossed into the region.
In November, Turkey’s foreign minister said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had convinced President Trump on a phone call to cease arming the YPG, and has threatened military action against the group for months.
“Mr. Trump clearly stated that he had given clear instructions, and that the YPG won’t be given arms and that this nonsense should have ended a long time ago,” the minister told reporters.
This week, Erdoğan told reporters that Syrian rebels would be involved with the Turkish military’s battle to take the Afrin region.
“Of course they will, together. This struggle is being conducted for them. Not for us,” he said.
A Turkish military leader told NATO leaders in Brussels this week that Turkey would not allow coalition forces to continue arming the YPG, according to Reuters.
“We cannot and will not allow support and arming of the YPG terror group under the name of an operational partner. We hope this mistake will be corrected in the shortest time,” armed forces chief of staff Hulusi Akar said.
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