The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish armed forces have begun to besiege Afrin, a Kurdish-controlled district in northern Syria.
Mr. Erdogan said in a televised statement that the Turkish troops and the Turkish-trained Free Syrian Army fighters are now only 6km from the center of the Afrin town.
“Now the center of Afrin is surrounded and our entry is imminent. We are removing the last remaining obstacles standing before our besieging of Afrin city center,” Mr. Erdogan said.
Turkish forces launched a massive military operation against Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) into Afrin in Syria.
Turkey regards YPG as a terrorist organization and an extension to PKK, a Kurdish guerrilla group outlawed and designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey and U.S.
Turkey, to secure its borders from YPG the country regards as a threat to its national security, launched the operation to dismiss the group from Afrin.
“We are in Afrin today; we will be in Manbij tomorrow. The next day we will ensure that the east of Euphrates will be cleared of terrorists up to the Iraqi border,” the Turkish President said.
Mr. Erdogan vowed the Turkish military offensive, titled as ‘Operation Olive Branch’ will not end with the seizure of Afrin.
The YPG spokesperson Nouri Mahmoud, however, contradicted with the Turkish President. He said, “The forces of Erdogan’s Turkish army … are 10 to 15km away from Afrin.
“Today, there were also clashes around Bulbul, where they announced around 30 days ago that they captured, occupied it.”
Turkey launched its so-called Operation Olive Branch on January 20 to remove the Kurdish fighters from Afrin and ‘secure its borders’.
The U.S.-Turkey relations recently reached its lowest abyss over U.S. supporting and training the YPG fighters despite the Turkish insistence to remove the group from Afrin.
Turkey repeatedly urged the U.S. to abandon the YPG that the U.S. apparently declined.
In the last month, a group of pro-Assad fighters entered Afrin region in support of the Kurdish fighters against the Turkish military to immediately come under heavy artillery.
The Syrian State TV showed videos of the convoy of pro-government forces deployed in Afrin to help the YPG fighters.
The YPG hailed the Syrian government for sending supports to “defend the unity of Syrian territory and borders.”
The YPG spokesperson Nouri Mahmoud said, “The Syrian government has responded to the call of duty and sent military units on this day … to deploy along the border and take part in defending the unity of Syria’s territory and borders.”
The pro-government fighters entered the embattled city shouting slogans in favor of the Syrian government.
Turkey strongly condemned the Syrian government move in Afrin. The Turkish forces fired warning shots at pro-Assad forces while they entered Afrin.
The Anadolu news agency [state news agency of Turkey] said, “Pro-regime terrorist groups that are trying to advance towards Afrin retreated to about 10 kilometers from the town because of the warning shots.”
The United States has been a key YPG ally in its fight against ISIS, a vicious terrorist organization. Turkey, however, doesn’t like this coalition very much.
Turkey regards YPG as a terrorist organization as an extension of the PKK, a leftists Kurdish group based in the southeastern part of Turkey, engaged in rebellion against the Turkish state for decades resulting tens of thousands of casualties in Turkey over the last few decades.
The Turkish-U.S. relations have deteriorated over the Afrin operations and the U.S. support of the YPG forces.