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U.S. general says not planning Manbij troop withdrawal

01 Février 2018

Turkey's Anadolu Agency said Syrian Kurdish fighters in Afrin fired two rockets, hitting a house and a garden wall in the town of Reyhanli.

Ankara, which considers the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in Syria a "terror" group, has vowed to carry on and possibly expand the operation despite global concern.

The original US strategy in Syria, which aimed at unseating Bashar al-Assad, changed direction when it became apparent that the creation of an Islamic state (ISIL) was a greater threat.

Iraqi forces declared victory over IS in December, but since the Afrin offensive began, Iraq's border guard has reported increased IS activity and attacks along their border with Syria. "We pray that you and the Turkish armed forces will achieve success and that Operation Olive Branch will, as its title promises, bring peace to this area".

Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on January 20 along with Free Syrian Army (FSA) to clear PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.

Syrian official Ghassan al-Qalaa said: "I call you upon in the name of millions of Syrian to have mercy upon our country".

A Syria war monitoring group says government forces have pushed farther into an opposition stronghold in the northwest of the country, in a drive to secure a key highway between the country's two largest cities.

Turkey sent its troops into Syria more than a week ago to attack and destroy elements of the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish group funded and supported by the an ally against ISIS.

The U.S. -Turkey relationship could be jeopardized if the Turkish military assault extends to the SDF-held city of Manbij, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said it will. The ambassador said that as many as 316 Turkish civilians had lost their lives in the Syria-originated terrorist attacks between 2015 and 2017.

France, like the United States, has extended arms and training to a YPG-led militia in the fight against Islamic State in Syria.

Turkey on Thursday dismissed cautionary remarks from France about its military operation in northern Syria as "insults", signaling continued strain between Ankara and its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies over the incursion, Reuters reported.

A few hours prior, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke before MPs of the National Assembly, warning of the risk that the Turkish operation turn into an "occupation" in northern Syria.(ANSAmed).

General Joseph Votel of US Central Command said Wednesday the US was doing "everything we absolutely can" to avoid a confrontation with Turkey in Syria.

"The Syrian regime did not have a presence in Afrin, and we want to ensure that no party allows Assad's brutal regime back into this area while we work to resolve the conflict through the Geneva process", said the NSC spokesman.

U.S. general says not planning Manbij troop withdrawal