Damascus Deplores US Military Presence in Syria

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Turkey intensified its shelling of Kurdish fighters in neighboring Syria on Friday as it ramped up threats to launch a full military offensive across the border, a move that would stoke tensions with the United States.

Afrin is controlled by the People's Protection Units, which is largely a Kurdish militia known as the YPG that Turkey considers a terror group.

Addressing the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's sixth annual provincial congress in western city of Kutahya, Erdogan said an operation in Manbij in Syria will come after Afrin because "promises made to Turkey have not been kept".

The Kurdish militia, which is estimated to control as much as 25% of Syrian territory, had the backing of United States forces and has been at the forefront of anti-Isis operations in the region. The Kurds were Washington's most trusted force in the USA -led campaign to drive Islamic State extremists from Syria, but Turkey's government says they work hand-in-hand with PKK militants who have been battling for autonomy in Turkey's southeast since the 1980s.

Turkey has in recent days sent dozens of military vehicles and hundreds of troops to the border area.

Finally, the Turkish military operation is expected to liberate Afrin from the yoke of PKK-PYD terrorists, who have been oppressing local communities and ruling the area with an iron fist.

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Asked about the timing of a ground incursion, Canikli said: "It could be tomorrow, it could be in the evening".

The PKK which is based in Turkey, Iraq and parts of Syria has been involved in an armed conflict with Turkey.

The assault has been dubbed "Operation Olive Branch" by the Turkish Armed Forces.

The Turkish news agency Anadolu reported that Russian forces were leaving the area and that the Turkish army's chief of staff, Hulusi Akar, met with senior Russian defense officials in Moscow on Thursday to seek Russia's support.

The YPG-held enclave of Afrin marks the westernmost extent of its control and Turkey wants to make sure it is kept well to the east of the Euphrates River. Following the liberation of Afrin, the Turkish military could answer calls from the local tribes in Manbij, which have been occupied by the PKK militants with USA support, to establish another "safe zone" in the area.

It is not clear whether the erratic Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan is grandstanding with these artillery strikes into Afrin or whether this is the beginning of an attempt by Turkey to occupy and/or ethnically cleanse the Afrin Kurdish enclave.

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