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

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BAGHDAD – The US-backed Syrian army is seeking to be attacked by Turkish forces, as the regional commander urged Washington to take action against threats that Biden administration officials said could lead to a breach of the agreement with NATO ally Turkey and the resurgence of the Islamic State. in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s military has launched what U.S. officials say were at least 100 airstrikes, air strikes and missile strikes on towns and cities in northeastern Syria over the past four days. At least 18 civilians and three soldiers were killed, according to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed militia in the region.

The attack has caused fear in a community that is no stranger to threats from its neighbour. Turkey, which has fought insurgency from the Kurdish minority at home for years, sees the SDF, controlled by Syrian Kurds., as a threat to national security. The Turkish military entered 2019 after what Erdogan saw as a green light from President Donald Trump.

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Erdogan has threatened to repeat the attack with new troops, launching the protests as revenge for an attack in central Istanbul that killed six people and injured dozens more. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which Erdogan blamed on the SDF.

“Those who oppose the attack in Istanbul with crocodile tears have revealed their true faces and how they are doing the operation we started right after,” Erdogan said in a speech to members of his party gathered in Ankara. “We have the right to take care of ourselves.”

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The SDF and other Kurdish organizations have denied responsibility for the attack in Istanbul.

The US-led coalition joined the fight against Islamic State militants in 2014 after the Islamic State captured 41,000 kilometers across Iraq and Syria. In Syria, the United States quickly chose Kurdish-led forces as its military base. Three and a half years after the terrorist attack After the expulsion and Trump’s withdrawal of the US military, hundreds of American troops remain in the region in the face of an invasion, in support of the SDF forces that are still fighting the insurgents.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Gen. Mazloum Kobane Abdi, the head of the SDF and Washington’s main supporter in Syria, urged Western organizations to strongly oppose another Turkish attack, saying that European pressure would hinder the ground operation.

“It’s not news to anyone that Erdogan has been threatening the underground project for months, but he can start the project now,” Abdi said. “If this war happens, it will not benefit anyone. It will touch many lives. There will be huge waves of migration, and a humanitarian crisis. “

Pentagon press secretary, Air Force Brig. General Patrick Ryder, said in a statement that “the recent airstrikes in Syria have threatened the safety of US personnel working in Syria and their local partners to defeat ISIS and hold more than ten thousand ISIS prisoners. The rapid decline is necessary to continue to focus for the defeat of ISIS and to ensure the safety and security of personnel dedicated to the mission of defeating ISIS.”

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This violence is putting the United States in prison. Its decision nearly a decade ago to support a Kurdish-led coalition in the fight against Islamic State strained ties with NATO ally Turkey, and it has struggled since then to reconcile with both. The war in Ukraine has made the situation more difficult, experts say, as Washington looks to Ankara for help from Sweden and Finland to join NATO, exclude Russia from the economy, and promote an agreement to allow the export of Ukrainian wheat to improve the world’s food supply. the world.

“Ukraine becoming a priority means looking for ways to keep Ankara on the sidelines, as US-Turkey relations have grown over time,” said Jonathan Lord, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security and a former staff member of the House Armed Services Committee. “There is no desire to do well with Erdogan in Syria, which often leads to great concern from the Turkish side, especially if it puts Washington’s goals in Europe in serious danger.”

So far, Biden’s administration has carefully avoided the appearance of taking sides. “What we’ve said publicly is that these strikes, from all sides, will put our threat, which is defeating ISIS,” Sabrina Singh, deputy press secretary at the Pentagon, told reporters on Tuesday.

Public criticism of Ankara may not work at this point, according to several US officials and military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.

But “we have been very clear in our private talks with Ankara about the potential threat,” a senior official said. “It’s dangerous, it’s disruptive, and it can put our employees in trouble. We haven’t given anyone the green light to do this.”

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The spokesman of the Central Command, Col. Joe Buccino, said the Turkish attack on Tuesday took place within 130 meters of the US troops, who often share the area with SDF personnel.

Turkey has few friends and strong opponents in Congress, many of whom would consider opposing the US-backed SDF for imposing direct consequences on Ankara. This pressure would increase if any US military personnel were injured in the attack.

At the same time, the SDF’s declining interest in the slow but steady fight against the Islamic State could lead to a resurgence of insurgency. On Wednesday night, the SDF said it would temporarily suspend its operations against ISIS to focus on Turkey.

Turkey first threatened a new attack on Syria earlier this year, but never followed through, instead attacking northern Syria. The threat has been seen by analysts as part of election-year politics, as Erdogan faces a re-election campaign early next year and hopes to rally nationalist voters.

US officials say they have seen no indication that Turkey is preparing to strike, unlike in 2019 when Turkish troops and weapons massed on the Syrian border.

In a Twitter post, SDF spokesman Farhad Shami retweeted a message from Biden in 2019, criticizing Trump for abandoning the US-backed military. “Today in your leadership, the same thing is happening,” Shami said. “Our people and our soldiers have the right to know how you feel about Turkey’s atrocities against our people.”

DeYoung reported from Washington. Mustafa al-Ali in Kobane, Syria; Karoun Demirjian in Washington; and Kareem Fahim in Doha, Qatar, contributed to this story.

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