Syrian Kurds will not be required to return USA weapons for now

Posted June 30, 2017

Turkish artillery fire targeted the People's Protection Units (YPG) across the border after Kurdish fighters fired on Ankara-backed Syrian forces.

"We have a small number of special operations forces that continue their train, advise and assist mission throughout northern Syria, but we are not going to discuss the location or number of USA special forces for operational security and force protection reasons", U.S Central Command said in a statement to Task & Purpose, responding to several questions.

"Fire support vehicles in the region were used to retaliate in kind against the harassing fire and the identified targets were destroyed/neutralised", a Turkish military statement said. No further details were given.

Ankara considers the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey and is also considered a "terrorist group" by the United States and the European Union.

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However, at this time, there have been no signs that YPG commanders or fighters plan to re-deploy from Raqqa to northern Syria as a result of the increasing hostilities between Ankara and the Kurds, according to a spokesperson at U.S. Central Command. Those were after Turkish warplanes attacked YPG and Iraqi Peshmerga positions in northern Syrian and Iraq, killing several US partnered forces.

"The Kurdish people in Afrin region have suffered a lot under heavy bombardment by Turkey and allied Islamists", the officer said.

This new offensive could be similar to the Operation Euphrates Shield, which was launched on August 24, 2016, and ended in March this year. The area along the Turkey-Syria border remains under the Turkish army's control. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated the Turkish troops are in Syria to "end the rule of the tyrant Assad", though he later backtracked on that sentiment.

Roj Musa, a journalist from Afrin, told VOA the barrage started after severe clashes between the YPG and Turkey-backed opposition groups near Menagh Military Airbase, 15 kilometers east of Afrin.

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Meanwhile, Mattis met with his Turkish counterpart Fikri Isik in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss developments in Syria, in particular the U.S. cooperation with Kurdish militias, and guarantees submitted by Washington of disarming the YPG following the liberation of Raqqa.

But Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan did not buy into the US pledge. We do not approve of weapons support.

"If Turkey feels that its nerve-endings are irritated or provoked by others, it would not hesitate to start an extensive military operation", Metehan Demir, a Turkish defense and military analyst, told VOA.

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