Turks vs. Kurds: The Latest on Turkey’s Assault in Syria
February 9, 2018
For the past couple of weeks, Turkey has been conducting a military offensive against Kurdish forces in the northwestern Syrian region of Afrin.
Turkey claims that it is carrying out its operation, which it has codenamed “Olive Branch,” to drive out elements of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG in Kurdish), which Turkey views as an extension of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged an insurgency in southern Turkey for Kurdish autonomy.
“We will get rid of terror nests one-by-one in Syria starting with Afrin and Manbij,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
The latest developments include an attack on a Turkish tank by Kurdish forces that killed 5 troops, bringing Turkish casualties to a total of 14. Meanwhile, Turkey claims that it has killed about 900 Kurdish fighters, though this has not been verified.
Much controversy has arisen from various actions in this operation, including a Turkish airstrike that damaged an ancient temple to the south of the city of Afrin.
“[This attack] reflects the hatred and barbarism of the Turkish regime against the Syrian identity and against the past, present and future of the Syrian people,” Syria’s antiquities department said in response.
Even more controversy has come from reports that Turkish air and artillery strikes have been targeting civilians, with at least 51 being killed according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Syria has responded to Turkey’s incursion by stating that “they will respond to [Turkey’s] violation.” Foreign powers have also responded to the operation by urging restraint.
The United States, which supports the YPG with weapons, training, and special operations personnel, has been put under severe pressure by this assault.
The US is now caught between its local Syrian Kurdish allies and its NATO ally Turkey, which will prove to be a serious test in its policy towards the ongoing conflict in Syria.