Turkey’s possible offensive in Syria’s northern Kurdish-controlled Afrin enclave will start with airstrikes on 149 targets of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), Turkish media reported on Tuesday.
Since Saturday, Ankara has been threatening to start an operation against the Syrian Kurds in Afrin following an announcement by the US-led coalition about training a border protection force composed of the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), affiliated with the YPG, in northern Syria. Various Turkish media have been reporting about shelling by the Turkish army of the territory under YPG control in Afrin. Ankara has reportedly sent armed convoys to the Syrian border.
The Turkish Vatan newspaper reported, citing military sources, that the country’s airstrikes would be carried out by fighter aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Ankara also plans to start a ground operation after the elimination of the main YPG strongholds by airstrikes. Turkey plans to attack the Kurdish forces from three directions to make them retreat to the regions under Damascus control to the southeast of Afrin, the outlet added.
Col. Thomas Veale, public affairs officer of the US-led coalition said in an interview with The Defense Post news outlet, published on Saturday, that the coalition was training the SDF to create a 30,000-strong force to maintain security along Syria’s borders. The statement prompted condemnation from Damascus, calling these activities aggression and occupation.
The US announcement also followed threats by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to eliminate the US-trained Kurdish troops from the vicinity of the Turkish southern border.
Ankara, one of the Syrian ceasefire guarantor states alongside Iran and Russia, considers the YPG linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed a terrorist organization in Turkey.