Possible Afrin operation to be conducted with Syrian opposition groups: Erdoğan
A possible military operation by Turkey in the Afrin region of northern Syria will be conducted together with Syrian opposition groups, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Jan. 16.
“This fight is for them. We are helping our brothers there so that they can protect their own territories,” Erdoğan told reporters in parliament.
His comment came as the latest in a series of warnings about an imminent operation targeting Afrin after the U.S.-led coalition said it was working with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to set up a new 30,000-strong border force in Syria.
“Those who stabbed us in the back and appear to be our allies ... cannot prevent it,” Erdoğan added, referring to the U.S. administration.
He noted that he did “not even think” about calling U.S. President Donald Trump to discuss the situation in Syria.
“As long as he does not turn to me, I won’t turn to him … America will come from 11,000 or 12,000 kilometers away to set up an army here? What will it name this army? A ‘border protection’ force? Whose border is being protected?” Erdoğan said.
The Turkish president noted that the Syrian regime also sees the formation of such a force as a “threat,” while also blasting NATO for “not responding” to harassment by the YPG on Turkey’s border.
“You are duty-bound to make a certain stance against anything that harasses one of your partners,” Erdoğan said, addressing members of his AKP at parliament.
He added that Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar is discussing the issue with his counterparts at a NATO meeting in Brussels, reiterating Turkey’s intention to launch a military operation in Afrin and Manbij in Syria.
“Within a short span of time, we will destroy all terror nests, one by one, in Syria, starting from the Afrin and Manbij regions,” Erdoğan said.
Heavy Turkish artillery shelling has targeted Kurdish positions in Afrin in recent days.
The U.S.-led coalition had on Jan. 15 said it was working with the SDF to set up a new border force. The SDF is largely controlled and manned by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The YPG militia controls key Syrian northern towns including Manbij and Afrin and has become an ally of the U.S., but Ankara accuses the group of being a terrorist organization.