Turkey May Militarily Target Kurdish-Held Afrin, FM Signals

Turkey has long signaled an impending operation to curb the hold of Syrian Kurdish militia over Afrin, a northwestern Syrian town close to the Turkish border.

That looming operation may materialize soon, according to Turkey’s top diplomat. In a televised interview aired on NTV,  Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Turkish troops could imminently carry out an operation against Afrin.

Turkey has already deployed troops in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib as part a de-escalation mission sealed in a trilateral summit between Turkey, Russia and Iran.

The Democratic Union Party (PYD), and its armed branch People’s Protection Units (YPG) are the dominant factions that control Afrin. The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is aligned with the U.S. in its drive to uproot Islamic State from northern Syria, a three-year mission that culminated in the defeat of the extremist group after the takeover of its self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa this fall.

The Turkish government, which lent unwavering support to the rebel forces in their bid to topple President Bashar al-Assad and his regime since the outbreak of the Syria uprising, has revisited its priorities and threat assessments.

YPG has emerged as a grave source of threat after expanding the territory it controls.

“Our target could be the Assad regime if they pose a threat to us. Currently, the main threat comes from the PYD,” the foreign minister said.

Turkey has periodically reinforced its troops at Syria border with new artillery and columns of tanks. It also sent Turkey-allied Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels to the east of Afrin.

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