On January 17, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) called on world powers to stop Turkey’s bombardment of Afrin city in the province of Aleppo in northern Syria. The PYD, that’s leading the political wing of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), also warned Turkey in the statement and stressed that “Afrin will not be alone “in case of a Turkish attack,” according to the Israeli Jerusalem Post newspaper.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Army deployed more armored units equipped with tanks and infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) to the border with Syria north of Afrin, according to Turkish sources. The Turkish Army even deployed I-Hawk medium-range surface-to-air missiles in the Kirikhan and Yayladagı provinces of Hatay in southern Turkey.
The recent tension around the SDF-held Afrin city erupted on January 13, when Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the Turkish Army will launch a military operation against the US-backed Kurdish militants in Afrin, if they don’t withdraw.
Later on January 14, the tension increased when the US-led coalition announced that it is working with the SDF to form a Border Security Force (BSF) that will allow Kurdish fighters to control the Syrian border with Turkey, Iran and even the Euphrates Valley.
In response, the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the Turkish Presidency condemned the US-led coalition decision to establish the BSF and the Turkish Army began massing its troops along the border with Afrin area.
“In coming days, we will continue our operations in Afrin to clear our southern border,” Erdogan told a meeting of his party in Tokat province on January 14.
Many experts warned the SDF and the YPG that the US will not protect the small Kurdish-held cit that’s located away from the SDF’s heartland in eastern Syria. These warning become a reality on January 16, when the spokesman of the US-led coalition Col. Ryan Dillon said that the US does not support the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria’s Afrin and the area was not a part of US-led coalition operations against ISIS.
The US-led coalition statement apparently encouraged the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who announced on the same day that the expected Turkish military operation against Kurdish militias in northern Syria will not be limited to Afrin city and may be expanded to other areas.
Observers now believe that a Turkish military operation against Kurdish militias in Afrin is highly possible. While many Kurdish activists claim that Afrin will not be an easy battle for the Turkish Army, the YPG/SDF is in a very compliacted situation. Kurdish forces are already besieged by the Turkish Army from east, west and north. They also have complicated relations with the Damascus government that controls the southern flank because of the increased tensions between the US-backed SDF and Damascus.