For a week Turkey has been conducting major airstrikes against Kurdish militia positions in Syria and Iraq, as it blames the outlawed PKK and associate Kurdish groups on the November 13 terror bombing in Istanbul.
President Erdogan has warned a ground operation is imminent, which will begin "at the most convenient time for us" - while Turkish warplanes have pounded some 500 targets, leading to reported deaths of over 250 people.
A statement from a White House National Security Council spokesperson has said, "The escalation in Syria and along the Turkish-Syrian border in recent days is dangerous and a threat to the safety of civilians and U.S. personnel in Syria."
And yet the White House has also asserted that NATO ally Turkey has a "right to defend themselves". But the Kurdish PKK and Syrian YPG have rejected the accusation that they had anything to do with the deadly Istanbul bombing, instead saying ISIS was behind it.
The commander of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Gen. Mazloum Kobane Abdi, has said Ankara is using it as a pretext to launch an offensive against the Kurds along the Syrian border, further warning that Turkey is pursing a policy of ethnic cleansing. He explained to Axios on Wednesday that "Turkish warplanes struck a military base that the U.S. military shares with these Kurdish fighters outside Qamishli about 30 miles from Turkey's border."
That's why Gen. Abdi is saying the US has a "moral duty" to intervene with Erdogan and in defense of Kurdish allies. He's urging Washington and his Pentagon backers to do more to halt the potential ground invasion and aerial offensive.
Further according to his statements to Axios:
- Mazloum says Turkey's strategy has been to announce an operation, conduct some preparations, then test the reactions of the U.S. and Russia.
- "I believe once they [Turkey] see there is no strong opposition from the main players they will go ahead," Mazloum says. "We believe the reactions are not enough yet to stop the Turks from launching this operation."
It's expected that a new Turkish operation would be the largest since 2019, when Turkish troops seized and occupied a significant amount of Syrian territory.
"I want the American people to show the same position they showed back in 2019 when we were again under stress from the Turks," he said. "We are again now under threat of being ethnically cleansed here by the Turks." Gen @MazloumAbdi https://t.co/F1QAiVKY0S— Wladimir (@vvanwilgenburg) November 24, 2022
"We have been bearing down on terrorists for a few days with our planes, cannons and guns," Erdogan said in a Tuesday speech. "God willing, we will root out all of them as soon as possible, together with our tanks, our soldiers."
Russia has meanwhile warned against a new Turkish incursion into Syria. "We understand and respect Turkey’s concerns about ensuring its own security. We believe this is Turkey’s legitimate right," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "At the same time, we call on all parties to refrain from steps that could lead to the destabilization of the overall situation," he added.