Turkish forces launch military attack against Kurds at Syrian border


Kurdish military leaders inside Syria have been braced for an attack since Donald Trump announced earlier this week that United States troops were withdrawing from the area.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member Turkey's military has begun an invasion of areas of northeastern Syria evacuated by US troops, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday. "Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area".

Witnesses reported explosions in and around Tal Abyad, a Syrian border town, as well as Ras al-Ayn, a town farther east along the frontier.

The expected offensive comes days after US President Donald Trump provoked a storm of criticism, including within his own party, by announcing that US troops would be pulled back from the border area.

There are about 30 million Kurds living in the Middle East, with half of them living in Turkey. Although the military invasion of a foreign country, settling of people and confiscation of the lands of the indigenous inhabitants is usually illegal under worldwide law, a new set of global rules have been created for Turkey's operation. "Thousands of our Great Soldiers have died or been badly wounded".

Turkey has been fighting a Kurdish insurgency led by the PKK, in which an estimated 40,000 people have died, since 1984.

"Should have never been there in the first place!" he added later, after Erdogan's announcement that the offensive had begun.

Earlier, Turkish television reports said jets had bombed Syrian Kurdish positions across the border from Turkey .

Also in the Washington Post on Tuesday evening, Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's top communications official, insisted that Trump had used the call "to transfer the leadership of the Islamic State campaign to Turkey".

In its call for mobilisation, the local Kurdish authority known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, also urged the global community to live up to its responsibilities as "a humanitarian catastrophe might befall our people" in the region.

The Kurds were key USA allies in defeating the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) in Syria. The American presence, which includes about 1,000 troops in northeastern Syria, is a lean force dispersed across a number of bases. A separate camp for internally displaced persons known as al-Hol, located in northeastern Syria, holds almost 70,000 people, including thousands of ISIS family members, according to a recent Defense Department Inspector General's report.

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On Tuesday, Istanbul sent more armored vehicles to the border with Syria, an AFP correspondent said, with a large convoy of dozens of vehicles seen in the Turkish town of Akcakale in Sanliurfa province. The area controlled by the PYD - referred to by many as Rojava, the Kurdish word for the region - has established autonomy with networks of local councils and forums that aim to promote decentralised democracy (though others question how much power they actually hold).

In tweets, Graham urged prayers for "our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration", adding, "This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS". "God forbid there are airstrikes or mortars close to us".

The Kurdish-led SDF say they lost 11,000 personnel in years of operations against IS that climaxed in March with a battle against the final bastion of the jihadists' caliphate in Baghouz.

Turkey's military operation has faced open opposition from the US military, which on Monday announced that Turkey had been cut off from access to the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC), depriving Turkey's air forces of surveillance intelligence.

Erdogan said he spoke with Putin, who has been very "constructive" as the Turkish military prepared for its advance.

The White House did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

In Ankara, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said Turkey was intent on combating Syrian Kurdish fighters across its border in Syria and on creating a zone that would allow Turkey to resettle Syrian refugees there. "I call on Turkey as well as on the other actors to act with restraint and to stop operations already as we are speaking", Juncker said. "People who are out there in the streets look as if they are going to someone's funeral".

Kurdish-led forces denounced the U.S. policy shift as a "stab in the back".

So why does Turkey now want to invade northern Syria and force the Kurdish groups out?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey, a NATO member, had informed the alliance about its "ongoing operation in Northern Syria".