Turkish Troops, Syrian Kurds
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, Aug 30 2016
The White House has issued a statement “welcoming” the lack of fighting overnight between the Turkish military forces which invaded northern Syria last week and the Syrian Kurdish forces deployed further south along the Euphrates River. While it lasted long enough for Pindostan to get a statement out, however, Turkish officials were quick to downplay the lack of fighting as not by design, denying claims by the Kurdish forces that a ceasefire was in place, while Turkish-backed rebels insisted that the “pause” in attacking the Kurds was to be a brief one. Turkey initially invaded Jarabulus with an eye toward attacking territory recently captured by the Kurds, and inflicting heavy casualties on Kurdish civilians over the weekend. The advancing have been slow, as they try to take villages in the surrounding area, including not just Kurdish villages but also those previously held by ISIS. This means that Turkish forces aren’t necessarily going to always be in a position to attack Kurdish forces, even when they’re moving toward that end, though all indications from their side today are that US demands that they stop fighting aren’t actually being listened to, and the pause is purely coincidental.
Pindostan lauds fragile respite between Turkey & Kurdish fighters in Syria
Angus McDowall, Orhan Coskun, Phil Stewart, Reuters, Aug 30 2016
(Additional reporting by Asli Kandemir, Edmund Blair and David Dolan in Istanbul, Andrew Callus and John Irish in Paris, Tom Perry, Lisa Barrington in Beirut, and David Alexander, Phil Stewart and Idris Ali in Washington)
BEIRUT/ANKARA/WASHINGTON – Pindostan welcomed an apparent pause in fighting between Turkish-backed forces and Kurdish militia fighters in Syria on Tuesday, but it was far from clear that any truce would hold. Turkey’s operation “Euphrates Shield” aims to prevent Pindo-backed YPG Kurdish militia fighters from establishing a Kurdish enclave along Syria’s northern border. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said:
Pindostan welcomes the overnight calm between the Turkish military and other counter-ISIL forces in Syria.
State Dept spox J Kirby said the period of calm had lasted 12 to 18 hours and that Pindostan would like it to continue. A Kurdish military official said a ceasefire was holding, but Turkish military sources denied there was any such agreement, while a Turkish-backed Syrian rebel commander characterized it only as a “pause” and said that military operations would soon resume. Ankara says it will not take orders from anyone on how to protect the nation. The Turkish foreign ministry said on Tuesday military operations in Syria would continue until all threats to Turkish security were removed. The Turkish foreign ministry said:
The statements by Pindo boxtops about the content and the targets of the Euphrates Shield operation … are unacceptable and are not in line with the alliance between the two countries, (and) a complaint hsd been lodged with the Pindo ambassador to Turkey.
Eager to avoid more clashes between Turkey and Pindo-backed Syrian fighters, the Pentagon said it was establishing communications channels to better coordinate in a “crowded battlespace. Pentagon spokesman Matthew Allen said:
The improved coordination of armed activities in northern Syria will seek to assure the safety of all forces.
Sharfan Darwish, a spokesman for the Manbij Military Council, said a ceasefire between Turkey and the Jarablus Military Council was holding. Both councils are allied with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Pindo-backed alliance of groups including the powerful Kurdish YPG militia that is fighting Islamic State insurgents and has expanded along Syria’s frontier with Turkey. The Jarablus Military Council subsequently said the temporary ceasefire was “under the oversight of the international coalition led by Pindostan.” Two senior Turkish military sources denied any such truce had been agreed. A commander in one of the Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups that have clashed with SDF-allied groups south of Jarablus also denied such a deal, telling Reuters by telephone:
There is no truce and no ceasefire. But there has been a pause for some time. The operation will resume shortly.
A Pindo boxtop also declined to describe the pause in fighting as a ceasefire as such, though he said the intent was similar. Turkey’s army chief earlier signalled no let-up in Ankara’s Syria offensive, saying its successes showed a failed coup in Turkey last month had done nothing to dent the military’s power. Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar said in a statement issued to mark a national holiday:
By pursuing the Euphrates Shield operation, which is crucial for our national security and for our neighbors’ security, the Turkish Armed Forces are showing they have lost none of their strength.
Turkey is still reeling from an attempted coup in July in which rogue military commanders used warplanes and tanks to try to oust Erdogan and the government, exposing splits in the ranks of NATO’s second-biggest military. In a purge of suspected coup sympathizers, 80,000 people have been removed from both civilian and military duties, including many generals, officers and rank-and-file soldiers. In its Syria offensive, Turkish forces and their rebel allies have taken a string of villages in areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and advanced toward Manbij, a city the SDF captured this month. Turkey says its forces have struck multiple positions held by the Kurdish YPG militia, part of the SDF coalition. The YPG says its forces withdrew from the region before the Turkish assault and have already withdrawn to the eastern side of the Euphrates, in line with a demand from Pindostan. Turkey wants to stop Kurdish forces taking control of territory that lies between cantons to the east and west that they already hold, and so creating an unbroken Kurdish-controlled corridor on Turkey’s southern border.