Turkey Urges US to Halt Kurdish Redeployment to Afrin

Turkey Urges US to Halt Kurdish Redeployment to Afrin

Wednesday, 7 March, 2018 - 10:00
Smoke billows from the town of Sharran, which is controlled by Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), as Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters approach the area, north of the Syrian city of Afrin, on March 6, 2018. Nazeer al-Khatib / AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey called on Washington Wednesday to prevent US-backed Kurds from sending fighters deployed against ISIS militants to shore up Kurdish forces battling a Turkish offensive in northwestern Syria’s Afrin region.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman said that Ankara wants the US to "step in and prevent" the redeployment.

Turkey sent troops into the Afrin enclave on Jan. 20 to drive out Syrian Kurdish fighters it considers to be terrorists.

US officials have warned that Turkey's offensive could undermine the fight against the ISIS.

Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, rejected that, saying the aim was to clear Syria of all terror groups.

At a news conference on Tuesday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced it would pull fighters out of areas of eastern Syria, where they have been fighting pockets of ISIS militants, in order to shore up defenses in Afrin. 

"We took the difficult decision to pull our forces out of Deir Ezzor province and battlefronts against ISS to head to the Afrin battle," said Abu Omar al-Idlibi, an SDF commander, saying his fighters numbered 1,700.

US and coalition officials have said they will not get involved in the Afrin fighting and expressed concern it would detract from the SDF's operations against ISIS.

But Idlibi said: “Our people in Afrin are our priority. Protecting them is more important than the international coalition's decisions."

He said his units, mostly made up of Syrian Arabs from the north of the country, were to be redeployed in the coming week.

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