Kurds in Syria call for U.S. help as Turkey threatens ground assault

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BAGHDAD – The United States is supporting the Syrian environment against attacks by the Turkish army as its commander urged Washington to do more to fight the threat on the ground.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s forces launched air, drone and artillery attacks on northern Syrian towns and cities for the fourth day on Wednesday. Some 18 civilians and three soldiers were killed in the attack, according to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed force in the region.

The rising violence has sent fears through a region that is no stranger to its neighbors. The Turkish government has been fighting Kurdish forces at home for years, and it sees the Kurdish-led SDF as a threat to its national security. The Turkish military last entered the environment in 2019, after what Erdogan’s leadership appeared to be a beacon of light from President Donald Trump.

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Erdogan is threatening to repeat this effort with new ground forces, launching the attacks as revenge for the attack in central Istanbul that killed six people and many others. injured in several matches in the past week. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Those who condemned the attack in Istanbul with red tears showed their true face with their resistance to the work that we started immediately,” Erdogan said in speech to members of his party gathered in Ankara. “We have a right to take care of ourselves.”

A group of US-led forces joined the fight against Islamic State forces in 2014 after the army seized large swathes of land in Syria. Three and a half years after the group was defeated, hundreds of US troops remain in areas outside Syrian government control.

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It is part of the US withdrawal in 2019 that redrew the map of northeastern Syria, paving the way for Turkey to invade as it left the area once watched checks from the American army to the Turkish army supporting the Syrian army and other places to the Syrian army and its Russian backers.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Gen. Mazloum Kobane Abdi, the SDF’s top commander and Washington’s strongest ally in Syria, has urged Western allies to stop further Turkish attacks, arguing that Western pressure can withstand block ground work.

Mazloum, who goes by his nom de guerre said “It is not news to everyone that Erdogan has been threatening the underground office for months, but he can start working now, ” “This war, if it happens, will not benefit anyone. It will affect many lives, there will be a huge wave of change, and chaos for people. “

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Violence puts the United States in a bind. His decision to support Kurdish forces on the ground in the fight against Islamic State put him at odds with NATO-ally Turkey, and he has struggled ever since to strike a balance. promises to both.

So far, the Biden administration has been careful to avoid being seen from one side. “What we have said publicly is that these attacks, from all sides, are a risk to our mission, which is to defeat ISIS,” said Sabrina Singh, Pentagon press secretary. nature, told reporters on Tuesday.

“We are following this,” he replied, when asked if the US is concerned about expanding military operations in Syria. “We oppose all the attacks that are happening now from all sides.”

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But James Jeffrey, a former U.S. envoy to the anti-ISIS group, said the U.S. and Russia, another key player in northern Syria, have rarely been on the same page in private. “Russia and the US, both of which have military forces close to where the Turks will operate, have told Ankara not to, and that could hinder at least a major operation.”

By Tuesday night, the SDF said that at least 45 places had been hit – among them, several hospitals and schools. In the border town of Derik, a journalist with the Kurdish Hawar News Agency, Essam Abdullah, was killed in a Turkish airstrike as he reported on an attack earlier in the same area, the outlet was announced. Colleagues found his body.

In a post on Twitter, SDF spokesman Farhad Shami shared a statement by Biden in 2019 accusing Trump of abandoning US-backed forces. “Today under your presidency, the same thing happened,” Shami wrote. “Our people and our soldiers have the right to know about your protest against the Turkish aggression against our people.”

James Jeffrey, former ambassador to the US-coalition,

“There is a real possibility of a ground attack in Turkey or at least a ground attack somewhere in Syria,” said James Jeffrey. “Russia and the US, both of which have troops close to where the Turks will operate, have told Ankara not to, and that could hinder at least a major operation.”

In the city of Kobane near the Turkish border, residents were sleeping in the corridors as the attack shattered their window frames. On Tuesday night, families packed their belongings into backpacks, fearing that they would have to flee soon. Others had dragged their beds in the nearby vineyards in the hope that they would be safer there.

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Most of them have no idea what is causing the explosion around them, only that more will follow. Nesrin Salim, 32, said she ran home overnight to grab a blanket and then rushed her children to a pile of trees where other local families had gathered.

“We were disappointed; we are confused. We don’t know when we will be hit,” said Salim, recalling the attack as he hung his children’s clothes to dry on Wednesday morning. “My only concern is my children. I can’t think of anything else. I don’t want them to hear this explosion.”

Fears that Washington’s interest in northeastern Syria is declining have made the SDF rely on the Syrian government and its ally Russia for Turkey’s protection. Alexander Lavrentyev, Russia’s special envoy for Syria, said on Wednesday that Moscow’s “close ties” with the Turkish Defense Ministry could prevent further escalation.

As the Turkish offensive continues, there are still salvos being fired from Syria into Turkey. A child and a teacher were killed and six people, among them a 5-month pregnant woman, were injured on Monday when mortars hit the border area in Turkey’s Gaziantep province.

Mazloum denied that the SDF was responsible for the attack, saying the force was only seeking to defuse the situation. But in other public news, the SDF vowed to retaliate. “They have killed many of our people, and we will take revenge,” Sami tweeted on Monday.

Mustafa al-Ali in Kobane, Syria, Karoun Demirjian in Washington and Sarah Dadouch in Beirut contributed to this report.

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