Syria on Monday slammed Turkey’s military takeover of Afrin, demanding it pull its forces from the “occupied” territory. The Turkish army – FSA force surrounded Afrin from three sides with more than 200,000 civilians reportedly fleeing the city.
- What happened in Afrin, Syria during the last days.
Ankara and allied Syrian rebel groups captured the city from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) on Sunday, after a two-month offensive on the broader Afrin region. Cnn reports that the US warned Monday that ISIS has begun reconstituting in some areas of Syria because a Turkish military offensive against a northern city has pulled the US’ Kurdish allies away from the fight against the terrorist group. Somehow Turkey’s aggression in Syria found the United States on Monday, 19th of March, roughly aligned with Syria and Iran—two nations it regularly condemns—over their mutual opposition to a Turkish offensive that has rocked the alliances of a seven-year civil war.
As Turkey and the mostly Arab Sunni Muslim insurgents of the Free Syrian Army took control of Afrin on Sunday, the State Department said it was “deeply concerned” over reports of mass evacuations and looting.
“The fighting in western Syria over the last two months, including in Afrin, has distracted from the defeat ISIS campaign and provided opportunity for ISIS to begin reconstituting in some areas,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement Monday.
The Turks’ decision to target Afrin was driven by concerns that Syrian Kurdish militias backing the US fight against ISIS could one day help Kurds in Turkey push for independence. While the Kurdish forces have been the most effective fighters on the ground for the US-led coalition against ISIS, Turkey dismisses them as “terrorists” and sees them as a potential existential threat.
Images have shown fighters loading trucks with household items and driving off with cars and tractors after much of Afrin’s civilian population fled the city.
— Mutlu Civiroglu (@mutludc) March 20, 2018
— Ian56 (@Ian56789) March 20, 2018
PUK faction in the Iraqi Parliament joined the KIU to call on the international community and UN to put limits on what KIU described as “adversary policy” by Turkey.
The FSA doing the, er, FSA salute which happens to be identical to the Isis one in Afrin today pic.twitter.com/fpOOD3DURc
— Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) March 19, 2018
“It has been two months since Afrin and people from Rojava (Kurdish controlled northern Syria) are under bombardment and barbaric attack of Turkish army and its allied hardline militia, that led to destroying the city’s infrastructure and killing hundreds of innocent civilians,” the PUK statement read.
The looting began on Sunday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and ground photos, after the Turkish and allied Syrian forces marched into the town centre and raised their flags there. Turkish military and their mercenaries after invading Afrin town, committed various crimes against civilians, destroying residential homes, reported the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).Turkish artillery and air force on Saturday shelled the town, killing 37 people.
The aggression carried out by the Turkish regime and its terrorists mercenaries on Afrin has displaced tens of thousands of civilians, with the number of displaced people rising drastically during the past two days after the Turkish forces and terrorists overran Afrin city (SANA).
As the Syrian Democratic Forces’ Kurdish fighters left the U.S.-led coalition assault on ISIS in eastern Syria, they struck an alliance with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The agreement left Washington in an awkward position as its leading ally on the ground teamed up with a government Western powers have attempted to overthrow since 2011.
The Syrian foreign ministry in Damascus sent two letters on Monday to the United Nations, protesting the capture as “illegitimate”.
“Syria condemns the Turkish occupation of Afrin and the crimes it is committing there, and demands the invading forces immediately withdraw from the Syrian territory they occupied,” the ministry said in its letters, according to state news agency SANA.
“Turkey’s behaviour and attacks do not only threaten citizens and the unity of Syria’s land and people – they also prolong the war on Syria,” it added.
- The United States
A second source of friction has been Turkey’s threats to push into Manbij, a town where US forces train mostly local Arabs, but also some Kurds. Ankara continues to demand the Kurds’ removal and US officials have hinted that in response, they have increased troop levels in Manbij to ensure the protection of US personnel there.
The U.S. initially entered the Syrian conflict by helping fund, train and arm anti-Assad rebels such as the now-Turkey-aligned Free Syrian Army. As the Syrian opposition became increasingly jihadi and Russia intervened on behalf of Assad and his Iranian allies in 2015, the U.S. switched support to Kurdish fighters, many of which were seen as terrorist organizations by Turkey due to alleged links to the restricted militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Not wanting to risk their partnerships with Turkey, neither the U.S. nor Russia have gotten directly involved on either side of the Afrin operation. Syria and Iran also have complicated relations with Turkey—whom they see as a regional competitor—and Kurds, who have sought greater autonomy in all three countries as well as in neighboring Iraq.
About a month after Turkey and the Free Syrian Army launched the campaign against Afrin, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he understood why Turkey would oppose the deployment of U.S.-backed Kurds near the border, but argued that “incursions in others’ territories is not the way to address the problems,” according to Iran’s semi-official Press TV outlet.
But lets look more closely to what has become Turkey during the last years. Turkey’s regime locks up more journalists than any other government on Earth. Since an abortive coup in 2016, tens of thousands of Turks have been detained or sacked on political grounds. It is a regime with a history of sordid links with jihadist extremists. It once backed the al-Nusra Front, which is al-Qaida by another name; and backs Ahrar al-Sham, an extreme jihadist group. Isis was allowed to expand because, for many years, Turkey allowed its murderous zealots to cross its porous border into Syria. There is evidence of oil smuggled by Isis with Turkish buyers as its main client, and relationships between Turkish officials and Isis officers. Isis commanders have been treated in Turkey’s hospitals with impunity.
The evidence is even more damning than that. One former Isis soldier has told the journalist Patrick Cockburn: “Most of those who are fighting in Afrin against the YPG are Isis, though Turkey has trained them to change their assault tactics.” In any case, the relationship between Turkey and fanatical extremists is undeniable. Yes, there have been repeated terrorist attacks against Turkey by a group of fanatics the regime is partly responsible for fuelling: but note they have repeatedly targeted Kurds, such as in the town of Suruç – just across the Turkish border – where 33 Kurdish socialists were killed in July 2015; or when 109 died in a bomb attack on a pro-Kurdish peace rally in Ankara in October 2015 (Independent UK).
Khaled Issa, who represents the Kurdish rebel authority in France, accused foreign powers of abandoning the Kurds who have been allies on the ground in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS).
“There’s a moral responsibility for the international community in the face of an unjustified and illegal aggression,” Issa told AFP on Monday (March 19), referring to the Turkish-led offensive on the former Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin.
“What is happening in Afrin is ethnic cleansing and the great powers are spectators,” added Issa, who represents the “Rojava self-ruled Democratic Administration” which runs areas under Kurdish control in northern Syria.
Forces known as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which are backed by the United States, have served as ground troops in the fight against ISIS in Syria.
France’s foreign minister said French authorities have told Turkey to end its Afrin operation, stressing that it comes under the UN Security Council ceasefire. France and Britain requested an emergency closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday to discuss the failed ceasefire.
French officials told Ankara they regret Turkey’s the Operation Olive Branch in the Kurdish enclave in northwestern Syria and advised Turkey to “put an end to it,” Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a meeting of the parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
He stressed that the UN Security Council ceasefire applies throughout the entire country, explaining it is necessary this be made clear “because we will all be mobilized in the coming days on the question of Eastern Ghouta, but the truce applies to all, including Afrin.”
The European Union’s head of foreign policy has called on the 20th of March, on all international and regional players, particularly the guarantors of the Astana process, to ensure the de-escalation process takes place on all fronts of the Syrian conflict – including Afrin.
— Defend Afrin (@fakepartyX) March 19, 2018
One of the hundreds of former ISIS fighters who fled to Turkey, recruited as “FSA” and now is attacking Afrin together with turks. This is turkey’s war on Kurds. pic.twitter.com/Xqvp0LbNrn
— Gilgo (@agire_cudi) March 16, 2018