Jan 26 2018

Turkey's Erdoğan says Syria offensive will continue till Iraq border

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday the country’s army would sweep Kurdish fighters from the Syrian border and could push all the way east to the frontier with Iraq.

Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch against the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in Syria’s northwestern district of Afrin on Jan. 20, bombarding Kurdish-held positions with air strikes, tank and artillery fire.

Ankara considers the pro-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) a terrorist organisation, and says the incursion aims to secure its border.

U.S. support for the YPG has angered Ankara and caused further tension between two NATO allies.

“Operation Olive Branch will continue until it reaches its goals. We will rid (the northern Syrian town of) Manbij of terrorists, as it was promised to us, and our battles will continue until no terrorist is left until our border with Iraq,” Erdoğan was quoted by Reuters as saying in a speech in Ankara.

The United States arms and trains the YPG in Manbij, and deployed troops there as part of the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against Islamic State.

If Turkey moves its ground forces from Afrin to Manbij, it could risk a confrontation with U.S. forces, and threaten U.S. efforts in northern Syria.