Ankara (GPA) – Turkish President Recep Erdogan announced the likely offensive in Kurdish Controlled Afrin on Saturday.
Trouble continues to brew in Idlib as the Turkish military – already creating problems for the Syrian military – prepares to open a second front from their positions in Idlib, into the Kurdish controlled city of Afrin in northern Syria.
The upcoming offensive was outlined by President Erdogan on Saturday at a provincial conference of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Elazig, a majority Kurdish city. In his remarks, Erdogan laid out the plans for an expansion of his military’s operation in Idlib. Erdogan offered the Kurds a final opportunity to surrender but, since this is unlikely, he went on to warn that “If the terrorists in Afrin don’t surrender we will tear them down.”
Erdogan laid out the new operation as the final blow against the Syrian Kurds and a culmination of the last few years of Turkish policy fighting the Kurdish groups like the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdish led coalition – the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“With the Euphrates Shield operation, we cut the terror corridor right in the middle. We hit them one night suddenly. With the İdlib operation, we are collapsing the western wing,” Erdogan Said. Euphrates Shield was the Turkish operation taking place on the Turkish-Syrian border near Raqqa, where the SDF is the sometimes fighting Daesh.
In Afrin, Turkey’s main opponent is the forces of the PYD and the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG); two groups openly affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an international terrorist organization. According to PYD sources, low-intensity combat has already broken out in some areas with shelling allegedly originating from Turkish positions.
Relations With US Continue to Erode
Erdogan also touched on another source of tension that comes up whenever he discusses Kurdish forces in Syria: US support.
This comes at a time where this site alone reports on failures in US-Turkish relations at least once a week. Just Last week Erdogan told a crowd of AKP members that he would withhold terrorists in Turkey from extradition to the US until he received exiled cleric and Erdogan rival Fethullah Gulen.
Similar to last week’s comments, Erdogan once again called into question the relationship between Ankara and Washington. Of the US support for the Kurds, Erdogan said of his NATO ally that “The U.S. sent 4,900 trucks of weapons in Syria. We know this. This is not what allies do, We know they sent 2,000 planes full of weapons.”
As the war in Syria continues to evolve in its post-Daesh phase, Erdogan has a large score to settle with the Kurds in northern Syria. With everyone not invited into Syria running out of excuses to be in the country, the main question is what happens with the US forces embedded with the Kurds. Not only is Erdogan after the Kurds but they’ll likely make a deal with Damascus in the near future which could also drag the Syrian army into conflict with NATO-member Turkey while the US still works with the Kurds. There are big questions that have to work themselves out in Syria and one will no doubt be the test of Turkey’s ability to project power.