Turkey will launch Manbij offensive after Afrin operation: Deputy Prime Minister Bozdağ
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has said Turkey will launch its third military operation into Syria in the Manbij district “if [Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units] YPG militants do not retreat from the region.”
“Turkey has to do this for the sake of our nation’s future, our territorial integrity, the security of our borders and citizens, and along with the aim of preventing the establishment of a terror state right beside us,” Bozdağ told private broadcaster CNN Türk on Feb. 4.
“Turkey has no choice at this point. Nobody should force us to take such steps,” he added.
Blasting Washington’s partnership with the YPG against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Bozdağ said Ankara had earlier proposed to team up with the U.S. for an offensive against ISIL. He added that Turkey has never “cheated the U.S.,” having long warned it that the Turkish military will clear the YPG from Afrin.
U.S. soldiers are not stationed in Afrin but they are patrolling in Manbij alongside YPG militants, as well as further east of the Euphrates river.
Bozdağ said Turkey “cannot differentiate YPG fighters” if U.S. soldiers “wear the uniform of terrorists and attack the Turkish Armed Forces by mingling in with them.”
Asked about the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s recent suggestion that contact with the Syrian regime must be established for a lasting solution in Syria, Bozdağ stressed that there were main other actors also involved in the Syrian war.
“A solution is not possible merely with efforts of Turkey as there are many other actors in Syria. Therefore the problem should be addressed in the processes of the Astana, Sochi and Geneva congresses,” he said.
Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 along with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to clear YPG militants from Afrin in northwestern Syria.
Ankara considers the YPG, the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey. Ankara says pushing Syrian Kurdish fighters away from northern Syria is essential for Turkey’s national security.
U.S. General Joseph Votel, commander of the United States Central Command, recently said that withdrawing U.S. forces from Manbij is “not something we are looking into.”
Manbij is a key flashpoint in northern Syria, located northeast of Aleppo and around 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Jarabulus, which sits on the Syrian-Turkish border.