Yildirim: more than 300 terrorists killed in Afrin

Posted January 26, 2018

President Donald Trump made the case directly to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a call on Wednesday, in which the two men discussed Turkey's offensive against Kurdish forces in northwestern Syria.

The official also denied that Trump had "expressed concern about destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey", as mentioned in the White House readout, saying Trump had instead stressed that open criticism of the U.S. in Ankara was raising concerns in Washington. It did not elaborate on that rhetoric.

During a telephone call with Erdogan, Trump called on Ankara to curtail its operations and avoid risking a clash with American forces deployed in the region.

The operation in Afrin - bordering Turkey's Hatay and Kilis provinces - was widely expected in the wake of Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, which cleared Daesh terrorists from Turkey's border between August 24, 2016, and March 2017.

Less than a week into Turkey's military operation in Afrin, Washington is exerting pressure on Ankara to de-escalate its activities, amidst heightened U.S. concerns that the fighting is hurting the broader battle against ISIL in Syria.

Erdogan, in a speech to officials in Ankara on Wednesday, reiterated the threat to advance on Manbij as he chided the United States and, in particular, former President Barack Obama, for betraying Turkey by supporting the Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Differences over Syria policy have already strained Turkey's relations with Washington nearly to a breaking point.

"If the United States doesn't stop this, we will stop it", he said.

Promoted tweets from Turkish state media began showing up in users newsfeeds in the days following the start of the Syrian offensive on Saturday.

Turkey regards the YPG militias (People's Protection Units), which are fighting Daesh in Syria, as a terrorist group since Ankara suspects them of ties with the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), which has been waging an armed conflict in Turkey seeking autonomy and equal rights for the Kurds in the country. The YPG forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces. Forces from Turkey and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies could come face to face on the battlefield, if war triggers between U.S. and Turkish forces. The latter has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

Two US defense officials told CNN last week that the US military continues to carry out overt patrols in the Manbij area, with the primary mission of deterring conflict.

USA forces were deployed in and around Manbij to deter Turkish and US -backed rebels from attacking each other and have also carried out training missions in the area. Turkey's prime minister said the strikes targeted IS along with Kurdish forces, but IS is not known to have a presence in the city.

"The future of our relations depends on the step the United States will take next", Cavusoglu said. "Their patrols are continuing and also air patrols". While they do not attack us, we do not need to consider them as our target.

In an interview with Reuters, Turkish Red Crescent President Kerem Kinik said the organisation was preparing to accommodate 50,000 people in five different camps near Afrin. On Wednesday, Kurdish officials said airstrikes hit in the vicinity of the Nissan 17 Dam, which provides power and water to the area, without damaging it.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS militants attacked Syrian troops and allied forces stationed in the eastern Deir el-Zour province, killing over a dozen fighters in attacks several kilometers (miles) apart. The YPG said it infiltrated behind Turkish lines east of Afrin and targeted their bases.