Turkey's Armed Forces at 4 kilometers from Syria's Afrin center

Posted March 11, 2018

Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels battling Kurdish militia in northern Syria advanced on Saturday to less than two kilometres from the flashpoint town of Afrin, a war monitor said.

On a visit to Ankara last month, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Turkey and the US had to solve the tensions surrounding Manbij as a "priority".

The YPG Spokesperson dismissed Turkey's threats and stated that the Kurdish forces "are always prepared and ready to defend Afrin and surrounding regions". Ankara considers the YPG to be a Syrian extension of the PKK, who form the majority of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The town of Manbij, east of Afrin, is considered a key flashpoint in any future conflict due to the USA military presence in the area.

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Turkey has been waging "Operation Olive Branch" against Syria's Afrin region since January 20 in a bid to eliminate the YPG, which forms the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that enjoys United States support.

The US forces in Manbij have recently resisted Turkey's calls for them to leave the area.

It has been listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.

Later, speaking at a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) provincial congress, Erdoğan announced that 3,213 militants have been "neutralized" since the launch of "Operation Olive Branch" in Afrin.

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Since the beginning of Ankara's Operation Olive Branch on January 20, the Turkish military and the FSA have captured 161 locations, including five town centers, 124 villages and 31 strategic areas.

Erdogan noted that a total of 815 square kilometers (506 square miles) have been liberated from the terrorists so far.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on worldwide law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

The military also said only terror targets are being destroyed and that "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming civilians.

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"Then we will ensure security there and send our (displaced) brothers of Afrin back to their homes".