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

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BAGHDAD – The United States supports the Syrian environment against attacks by the Turkish army, as the regional leader asked Washington to do more to prevent the threat from the ground that the administration of Biden said there was a risk of a breach with NATO ally Turkey and the re-emergence of the Islamic State. in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s military launched what U.S. officials said were at least 100 air, drone and artillery strikes on northern Syrian towns and cities in the past four days. . About 18 civilians and three soldiers were killed, according to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed force in the area.

The attacks have sent ripples of fear through the area which is no stranger to threats from its neighbors. Turkey, which has been fighting militias from its own ethnic Kurdish population for years, views the SDF, which is made up of Syrian Kurds., as a threat to his national security. Turkish troops last entered the region in 2019, after Erdogan appeared to be seen by President Donald Trump.

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Erdogan is threatening to renew the crackdown with new ground forces, launching the attack as revenge for last week’s attack in central Istanbul that killed six people. and more injuries. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which Erdogan blamed on the SDF.

“Those who condemned the attack in Istanbul with red tears showed their true face with their resistance to the work that we started immediately,” Erdogan said in speech to members of his party gathered in Ankara. “We have a right to take care of ourselves.”

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

A group of US-led forces joined the fight against Islamic State forces in 2014 after the Islamic State seized 41,000 square miles across Iraq and Syria. In Syria, the United States has chosen Kurdish forces as their energy partner. Three and a half years later the army was fleeing and Trump partially withdrawing American troops, hundreds of American soldiers are still in the area now under threat of invasion, in support of SDF units still fighting the rest of the army .

In an interview with the Washington Post, Gen. Mazloum Kobane Abdi, the head of the SDF and Washington’s strongest ally in Syria, urged the Western coalition to attack the Turkish people again, arguing that Western pressure could prevent ground operations.

“It’s not news to anyone that Erdogan has been threatening to work in the ground for months, but he can start working now,” Abdi said. “This war, if it happens, will not benefit anyone. It will affect many lives. There will be a huge wave of displacement, and humanitarian crisis. “

Pentagon press secretary, Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, said in a statement that “the recent attacks in Syria directly affect the safety of US personnel who are working in Syria with local partners to defeat ISIS and control more than ten thousand ISIS prisoners. … The immediate withdrawal is necessary in order to maintain the goal of defeating ISIS and to ensure the safety and security of The ground staff is committed to the defeat of the ISIS mission.”

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Violence puts the United States in a bind. His decision nearly a decade ago to support Kurdish forces in the fight against Islamic State put him at odds with NATO ally Turkey, and he has been fighting ever since. to balance the promise for both. The war in Ukraine has caused more problems, analysts say, as Washington looks to Ankara for support in Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO, isolates Russia’s economy, and supporting the agreement to allow the export of Ukrainian grain to international food.

Jonathan Lord, director of the Middle East Security Program at the US Department of State and former Secretary of State, said that “Ukraine is the most important means of finding a way to keep Ankara outside, because of the relationship in the American staff in the House of Representatives. wants to be happy from the Turkish north, especially if it makes Washington’s goals in Europe more risky.”

So far, the Biden administration has been careful to avoid being seen from one side. “What we have said publicly is that these attacks, from all sides, are a risk to our mission, which is to defeat ISIS,” said Sabrina Singh, the Pentagon’s director of communications. to reporters on Tuesday.

Public criticism of Ankara will serve no purpose at this time, according to several US and military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss important issues.

But “We have been particularly clear in our private communications with Ankara about the risk that these activities pose,” one of the officials said. “They are dangerous, they cause damage, and they have the potential to injure our workers as well. We have not given the green light to anyone to do this work. destroy this.”

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Central Command spokesman Col. Joe Buccino said that one of the Turkish attacks on Tuesday came within 130 meters of the American forces, which mostly involved SDF personnel.

Turkey has few allies and many powerful critics in Congress, many of whom will consider the intervention against the US-friendly SDF as a reason to directly affect Ankara . That pressure would probably increase exponentially if a US worker was injured in the attack.

At the same time, a reduction in the SDF’s attention to the irregular but continuous offensive against the Islamic State could lead to further violence. On Wednesday night, the SDF said it would temporarily stop operations against ISIS to focus on Turkey.

Turkey began to threaten a new ground attack in Syria earlier this year, but it never followed through, instead choosing to attack in northern Syria. The threat is seen by analysts as part of the election year of the government, with Erdogan facing a difficult election in the early elections next year and hoping to consolidate national electorate.

US officials said they have yet to see any signs that Turkey is preparing for a ground attack, compared to 2019 when Turkish troops and equipment were on the Syrian border. .

In a post on Twitter, SDF spokesman Farhad Shami shared a statement from Biden in 2019, accusing Trump of abandoning US-requested support. “Today under your presidency, the same thing happened,” Shami wrote. “Our people and our soldiers have the right to know about your protest against the Turkish aggression 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 report.

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