U.S. troops risk getting caught in crossfire amid Turkish-Kurdish fighting

Reuters reports that a US-backed Kurdish militia has deployed fighters to the frontline of Syria's Manbij to fight against Turkey's military as President Erdogan has indicated it would be the next target after Afrin operation.

US President Donald Trump has urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to de-escalate the country's military incursions in northern Syria, warning against actions that "could risk conflict between Turkish and American forces".

Speaking with Erdogan by phone, Trump said that Turkey's "Operation Olive Branch", targeting US-backed Kurdish fighters, "risks undercutting our shared goals in Syria", according to a White House statement.

Elizabeth Teoman, a research assistant on Turkey at the Institute for the Study of War, said an escalation in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict threatens USA troops in both Syria and Turkey, where the Pentagon maintains two military bases.

Any attack there would raise the prospect of protracted conflict between Turkey and allied Free Syrian Army factions against the USA -backed Kurdish fighters.

"(But) in order for us to discuss the security zone or any other issue with the USA, we have to re-establish trust", Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters.

"Washington has been making open as well as behind-the-scenes deliveries of modern weapons into Syria, in order to transfer them to the detachments that are cooperating with it, first of all, the Syrian Democratic Forces that rely on Kurdish militias", Lavrov said.

A limited number of families were reportedly able to move out of Afrin district towards some rural areas near Aleppo but were prevented from proceeding at Syrian government checkpoints, the world body said, citing local reports.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights within global law, U.N. Security Council resolutions, its right to self-defense under the U.N. charter and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

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The Afrin offensive has caused concern among Turkey's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, especially the USA, which continues to supports the YPG in its efforts to defeat Islamic State in Syria.

The United States has around 2,000 troops in Syria.

Trump did not raise concerns about escalating violence in Afrin, the official said, and the two presidents had simply exchanged views on the operation.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK, which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey. When the USA announced plans to create a 30,000-strong Kurdish border force, an alarmed Turkey announced the offensive in Afrin.

The paper said that following the failure of the Turkish campaign so far, Turkish military buildup was noticed on the Turkish side of the borders, adding that Washington complicity with Turkey has become clear in terms of supporting the buffer zones, or safe zones, in northern Syria.

A senior US official said that as of Tuesday the Turks had not been ready to engage in detail on such a proposal.

He also told Trump that Turkey's offensive seeks to rid Afrin of "terrorist elements" and protect Turkey's national security.

"Starting in Manbij, we will continue to thwart their game", he said. Turkey had previously said it wanted to establish a 30-kilometer zone on the border.

Turkish warplanes struck the northern borders of Afrin, in tandem with heavy artillery shelling, and one civilian was killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.

  • Joey Payne