Vastavam web: Turkey shelled targets in northwest Syria on Monday and said it would swiftly crush U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG fighters in an air and ground offensive on the Afrin region.While Washington and other Western capitals expressed concern, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he had secured a go-ahead for the campaign from Russia, principal backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, long Turkey’s foe.
Turkish forces and their Syrian anti-Assad rebel allies began their push on Saturday to clear the northwestern border enclave of Kurdish YPG fighters. Ankara considers the YPG to be allies of insurgents that have fought against the Turkish state for decades. The United States, meanwhile, has armed and aided the YPG as its main ground allies against Islamic State.But Erdogan said Turkey was determined to press ahead. “There’s no stepping back from Afrin,” he said in a speech in Ankara. “We discussed this with our Russian friends, we have an agreement with them, and we also discussed it with other coalition forces and the United States.”
Syria has strongly objected to the Turkish incursion, and Moscow, which controls parts of Syrian air space on behalf of its allies in Damascus, has not confirmed giving a green light to it. But Russia does not appear to be acting to prevent it, and has pulled its own troops out of the Afrin area.The YPG’s Afrin spokesman, Birusk Hasaka, said there were clashes between Kurdish and Turkish-backed forces on the third day of the operation, and that Turkish shelling had hit civilian areas in Afrin’s northeast.
The YPG said Afrin had already been reinforced in anticipation of the Turkish offensive, but there were discussions over whether to send more reinforcements. That could be tricky since other YPG-held territory is separated from Afrin by areas held by Syrian government forces.