Mattis praises Kurdish fighters, confirms Turkey gave advance notice of attacks in Syria

by WorldTribune Staff, January 22, 2018

Turkish military leaders informed the United States prior to bombing positions of U.S.-allied Kurds in northern Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Jan. 21.

“They warned us before they launched the aircraft that they were going to do it,” Mattis said.

Turkish tanks have entered Syria in an offensive targeting the Kurdish YPG.

Turkish warplanes on Jan. 20 launched strikes on the city of Afrin in northern Syria, which is controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Mattis said Turkish military officials informed the U.S. by phone of the strikes, but the defense secretary did not indicate whether U.S. officials cautioned Turkey against the attack.

“We are very alert to it. Our top levels are engaged…and we’re working through it,” Mattis said. “We’ll work this out.”

The YPG has been a key U.S. ally and proven to be a highly-effective fighting force in the war against Islamic State (ISIS).

“They have proven their effectiveness,” said Mattis. “It has cost them thousands of casualties, but you have watched them, with coalition support, shred ISIS’s caliphate in Syria, and that’s a matter of arithmetic.”

Turkey considers the YPG to be a terrorist group.

Mattis added that it is “easy to understand” why Turkey is worried the conflict will spill over the Syrian border.

“Turkey is a NATO ally. It’s the only NATO country with an active insurgency inside its borders. And Turkey has legitimate security concerns,” Mattis said.

Turkish media reported on Jan. 22 that Turkish troops, accompanied by some 25,000 pro-Turkey rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), have captured several villages in northwestern Syria.

Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported the Afrin villages of Shankal, Qorne, Bali and Adah Manli were captured, along with rural areas including Kita, Kordo and Bibno.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the YPG had repelled Turkish troops from two villages that had been briefly captured in heavy fighting.

Following talks with Russia, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would not “step back” in the attacks.

“We are determined, Afrin will be sorted out,” Erdogan said. “We will take no step back. We spoke about this with our Russian friends; we have an agreement.”

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