US should have known Afrin operation was coming

THE EDITORIAL BOARD
ISTANBUL
Published

Turkey's Operation Olive Branch to eliminate all terrorists in Afrin in northwestern Syria was launched 25 days ago.

This military incursion did not come about haphazardly. Turkish officials repeatedly warned their American counterparts, issuing public statements announcing Ankara's concerns. American officials cannot claim to be surprised considering increased Turkish anger over the U.S.'s significant military, financial and moral support to the People's Protection Units (YPG), which is nothing but the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, a group recognized as terrorists by the U.S. and the EU.

U.S. President Donald Trump assured President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a telephone conversation late last year that U.S. weapons deliveries to the YPG would cease.

However, the U.S. declaration early last month that a 30,000-strong border protection force would be formed from YPG militants was the final straw.

The Turkish government decided it could no longer trust the declarations emanating from Washington, and felt it had no option but to launch Operation Olive Branch to eliminate the growing terrorist threat in Afrin.

The U.S. administration was obviously caught off guard. Contradictory statements from officials at the Pentagon, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the White House after the Afrin operation began made many in Ankara ask who was in charge in Washington.

The U.S. should have known it was coming. After the defeat of Daesh in Syria, weapons given to the YPG were supposed to be collected, and U.S. officials were going to make sure these terrorists returned to areas east of the Euphrates. The Trump administration, however, continued to back the YPG, expediting their deployment to the west of the Euphrates, initiating the process that culminated in Operation Olive Branch.

Despite everything, U.S. officials continue to parrot the same rigmarole about how the strategic partnership will continue. The statement issued after the meeting between presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın and Trump's National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster last weekend was no different.

Meanwhile, American troops on the ground had something completely different in mind. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk, in a perfect example of practice what you preach, spoke next to a U.S. military outpost in Manbij and suggested that they would fight if necessary to protect their YPG militant partners in the region from any Turkish incursion.

Right now, the U.S. is aiding and abetting a group linked to another group it officially sees as a terrorist organization. This group no longer fights Daesh and is instead receiving the necessary training and equipment to become a border force that has and will continue to see Turkey as its principle enemy.

The Afrin operation should be a wakeup call. Ankara, at a minimum, will no longer tolerate any PKK or YPG presence west of the Euphrates, and it has serious reservations concerning the PKK and YPG presence east of the Euphrates, as well.

The U.S. created and is now feeding this monster. They have no idea or maybe have no interest in what will happen after they leave. Turkey does not have this luxury and has taken the necessary steps to eliminate the threat for the good of all.

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