Erdogan threatens to start military operation against Kurds in northern Syria

Turkey will “rip off the heads” of the YPG Kurdish “terrorists” in the Afrin and Manbij regions, “if they do not surrender”, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a public speech in the Elazig Province, reported the Turkish TV channel NTV.

“In Manbij, if the promises [of the Americans to withdraw the Kurdish YPG troops] are not fulfilled, we will take the matter into our own hands. They will see what we do in a week. If the terrorists in Afrin do not surrender, we will rip off their heads,” Erdogan threatened.

The Turkish president added that he will not allow the “terrorist belt” (his term for the Kurdish-controlled regions of northern Syria) to extend along the Turkish border. He said that when the US “kicks them out”, the Kurds will “look for a hole to escape to”, and the Turks will “pursue” them.

The Kurds took the city of Manbij from ISIS militants with the help of US special forces and International Coalition aircraft at the start of August 2016. At the end of August, with help from the Turkish army, pro-Turkish militants began the “Euphrates Shield” operation – an offensive on the ISIS-occupied city of Al-Bab, in order to prevent the Kurds from uniting with their colleagues in the Afrin “Canton” and creating a belt of Kurdish territories along the entire south-eastern Turkish border.

The Kurds control several “cantons” in northern Syria, the so-called Federation of Northern Syria. The troops of the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are considered the armed wing. Troops of the Kurdish militia form the core of the SDF, but these forces also include militants of the moderate opposition of Arab nationality. Turkey considers the YPG a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an organization which is involved in an armed conflict with the Turkish authorities for the self-determination of the Kurds. Ankara has officially recognized the PKK as a terrorist organization. However, the US is providing Syrian Kurds with weapons, which is a topic of contention between Ankara and Washington.

  Erdogan, Kurds, Syria, Turkey