Turkey's Afrin Campaign Heightens Tensions With US

President Tayyip Erdogan warned Wednesday that Turkey would expand its military offensive to the Syrian town of Manbij, where the Pentagon maintains Special Operations troops who are partnered with Kurdish forces that dominate the city.

Asked by Kurdish journalists about the Turkish operation in Afrin, Zakharova said Russia's position in this regard is clear and accurate.

United States President Donald Trump urged his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to limit military operations in Syria's Afrin to avoid clashes with the US forces in the northern part of the country.

However, White House readout available at its website says "President Trump relayed concerns that escalating violence in Afrin, Syria, risks undercutting our shared goals in Syria".

Within a week after the announcement, Ankara launched an offensive in Syria's Kurdish enclave of Afrin code-named Olive Branch and aimed at eliminating terrorists in the region.

Turkey is targeting the YPG, a Kurdish militia, who control much of north east Syria.

"We carefully track those weapons that are provided to them, we ensure that they, to the maximum extent possible, don't fall into the wrong hands and we're continuing discussions with the Turks on this issue", Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, joint staff director, told reporters.

Disagreements over the status and future of Syria's Kurds have strained relations between Ankara and Washington. The latter is designated as a terrorist group in Turkey, which has been fighting it for decades.

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Meanwhile, al-Watan cited a Kurdish source in the YPG as saying that his group is undertaking the guerrilla warfare style in confronting the Turkish incursion, noting that "what we are losing in the morning due to the intensified shelling and airstrikes, we are restoring in the evening because the YPG knows the geography of the area there very well".

The US and Turkey are North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies but they have diverging interests in the Syrian civil war.

A civilian holding a Turkish flag arrives on January 22 to encourage the troops at a Turkish Army staging area in the outskirts of the village of Sugedigi, Turkey, on the border with Syria.

A senior USA official said that as of Tuesday the Turks had not been ready to engage in detail on such a proposal.

The group said that 28 civilians, including eight children, were among those killed. Earlier this week, a Syrian refugee was killed by a similar strike. One military official said United States troops in the Manbij area had come under fire from Turkish-backed rebels "within the last week", returning fire in self-defense. Despite the Turkish claims, Islamic State fighters are not known to be in the areas Turkey is attacking.

Erdogan also reiterated Ankara's request from Washington to stop providing arms to the PYD/YPG terrorists in Syria.

Tillerson has been moving to de-escalate the situation and improve relations after the United States' announcement of a 30,000 strong border force with the Kurds upset its key North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally.

The official also denied that Trump had "expressed concern about destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey", as mentioned in the White House readout, saying Trump instead stressed that open criticism of the USA in Ankara was raising concerns in Washington.

  • Jon Douglas