The Kurds in Syria are calling for US help and Turkey is threatening a ground offensive


BAGHDAD – A US-backed Syrian enclave braced for attacks by Turkish forces as its supreme commander called on Washington to do more to counter the threat of a ground invasion.

On Wednesday, the forces of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched air strikes, drones and artillery on the towns and cities of northeastern Syria for the fourth day. The attacks killed about 18 civilians and three soldiers, according to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the area.

The escalation of violence has sent waves of fear in a region that is no stranger to threats from its neighbour. The Turkish government has fought Kurdish militants at home for decades, and it views the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as a threat to its national security. The last time Turkish forces invaded the enclave was in 2019, after what the Erdogan administration seemed to consider The green light from then-President Donald Trump.

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Erdogan threatens to repeat the effort with new ground forces, framing the strikes as retaliation for an attack Attack in the center of Istanbul That left six people dead and scores injured on a busy road last week. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Those who condemned the Istanbul attack with crocodile tears revealed their true faces with their reactions to the process we started immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech to his party members gathered in Ankara. “We have the right to take care of ourselves.”

a The military coalition led by the United States He joined the fight against the Islamic State group in 2014 after the militants seized a huge swath of territory in Syria. Three and a half years after the group’s official defeat, hundreds of US forces remain stationed in areas outside of the Syrian government’s control.

It was a partial US withdrawal in 2019 that redrew the map of northeastern Syria once again, paving the way for Turkey to invade as it ceded territory formerly guarded by US forces to Turkish-backed Syrian militia forces and elsewhere to the Syrian army and. his Russian supporters.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Gen. Mazloum Kobane Abdi, the SDF’s supreme commander and Washington’s staunchest ally in Syria, urged Western allies to vigorously oppose further Turkish offensives, arguing that Western pressure could prevent a ground operation.

“No one is told that Erdogan has been threatening the ground operation for months, but he can launch this operation now,” said Mazloum, who uses his nom de guerre. This war, if it happens, will not benefit anyone. This will affect many lives, and there will be massive displacement waves and a humanitarian crisis.”

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Violence puts the United States in a bind. And its decision to support a Kurdish-led ground force in the fight against the Islamic State group put it at odds with NATO ally Turkey, and it has struggled ever since to balance commitments to the two.

Until now, the Biden administration has carefully avoided being seen as taking sides. “What we’ve said publicly, these strikes, from all sides, risk our mission, which is to defeat ISIS,” Sabrina Singh, the Pentagon’s deputy press secretary, told reporters Tuesday.

“We have been consistent on this,” she replied when asked if the United States was concerned about expanding military operations in Syria. “We oppose all the strikes that are happening now from all sides.”

But James Jeffrey, a former US envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, said the US and Russia, two other major players in northeastern Syria, were less of a secret. Russia and the United States, both of which have forces close to where the Turks would operate, have urged Ankara not to act, and that might at least deter a major operation.

By Tuesday night, the SDF said at least 45 locations had been bombed – among them several medical facilities and a school building. In the border town of Derik, a correspondent for the Kurdish Hawar news agency, Essam Abdullah, was killed in a Turkish airstrike as he reported on a previous attack in the same area, the website reported. Colleagues found his body.

In a Twitter post, SDF spokesman Farhad Shami retweeted a message from Biden in 2019 accusing Trump of abandoning US-backed power. “Today, under your presidency, the same thing is happening,” al-Shami wrote. Our people and forces have the right to know your position on the Turkish aggression against our people.

James Jeffrey, former ambassador to the US-led coalition,

“There is a real possibility of a Turkish ground attack or at least a ground raid somewhere in Syria,” said James Jeffrey. Both Russia and the United States, which have forces close to where the Turks would operate, have urged Ankara not to act, and that could at least deter a major operation.

In the town of Kobani, close to the Turkish border, residents sleep in the corridors as blows rattled window frames. On Tuesday night, families put their belongings in backpacks, fearing they would soon have to flee. Others pulled out their mattresses to sleep in nearby orchards, hoping to be safer there.

They usually have no idea what is causing the outbursts around them, but more are likely to follow. Nasreen Saleem, 32, said she ran home overnight to get blankets and then hurried her children to a group of trees where other local families were gathering.

“We were in a panic; we were confused. We didn’t know when we were going to strike,” Salem said, remembering the attacks as she hung her children’s clothes outside to dry on Wednesday morning. “My only worry is my children. I can’t think of anything else. I don’t want them to hear those explosions.”

Fear of Washington’s waning interest in northeastern Syria has made the SDF increasingly dependent on the Syrian government and its ally Russia for protection against Turkey. Alexander Lavrentiev, the Russian Special Envoy to Syria. He said Wednesday, Moscow’s “close contact” with the Turkish Ministry of Defense could prevent any escalation.

As the Turkish attacks continued, so did Syria’s barrages on Turkey. A child and a teacher were killed and six people, including a five-month pregnant woman, were injured on Monday when mortar shells hit a border area in Turkey’s Gaziantep province.

Mazloum denied that the SDF was responsible for the strikes, saying that the force was only seeking to de-escalate the situation. In other public media, however, the SDF vowed revenge. “They killed many of our people and we will respond,” al-Shami wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Mustafa al-Ali in Kobane, Syria, Karon Demarjian in Washington, and Sarah Dadush in Beirut contributed to this report.

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