Syria to deploy troops to Afrin under deal with Kurdish militants: Reports

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A Kurdish militant walks in the town of Rajo in the Afrin district, northern Syria, on January 27, 2018.
The Syrian Government is set to deploy troops to the northern district of Afrin, which has been the target of a month-long Turkish offensive, as part of an agreement with the Kurdish militants operating there.

Citing “special” sources, Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen broadcaster reported Thursday that Damascus had reached an agreement with militants of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to station troops in Afrin with the aim of countering Turkish military attacks.

Russia’s Sputnik news agency also quoted a source familiar with the situation as saying that Syrian forces would enter the flashpoint region within “the next few days.”

“The agreement has been reached on the deployment of the Syrian Armed Forces at the Syrian-Turkish border in Afrin in the north of Aleppo in the next few days. The agreement was reached between the Syrian government and the Kurds,” the source said.

According to Sputnik, the US, a longtime supporter of the anti-Damascus Kurdish militants, has no knowledge of the deal.

Ankara views the YPG as a terror organization linked to the homegrown militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for autonomy on Turkish soil over the past decades.

Angered by a Washington plan to set up a 30,000-strong Kurdish force at its doorstep, Turkey launched on January 19 the so-called Operation Olive Branch in northern Syria to cleanse those regions of the YPG, which forms the primary component of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

This January 28, 2018 file photo, Turkish troops take control of Bursayah hill, which separates the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin from Azaz, Syria. (By AP)

Turkey has threatened to expand its military operation to the nearby Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Manbij and beyond to the Iraqi border. It has also warned the US, its NATO ally, to halt its support for the Kurds or risk confronting Turkish forces on the ground in Syria.

In an exclusive report on February 11, Reuters said the Kurdish militants controlling Afrin are getting indirect assistance from Syrian government forces in the face Turkish assaults.

Kino Gabriel, the SDF spokesman, said the “fundamental route” to get reinforcements to Afrin is via government forces, adding, “There are understandings between the two forces … for the sake of delivering reinforcements.”

The developments come a few weeks after Kurdish authorities in the Afrin district appealed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad to send troops and help defend them against the Turkish incursion in line with protecting Syria’s sovereignty.

The Syrian government has given a degree of authority to the Kurdish regions to run their own affairs in the face of a foreign-backed militancy. The US, however, has used the vacuum to establish a foothold in those regions with the help of militants.

Assad has described US-sponsored Kurdish armed elements as “traitors” to the nation but has also denounced Turkish incursions as an act of aggression.


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