AuthorTopic: Turkish tanks cross Syrian border in military op to retake city of Jarablus from  (Read 2761 times)

Offline Palloy

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Why would the US start firing rockets at ISIS from Turkish territory, rather than their usual aerial bombing? - perhaps because they are afraid they are getting close to Syrian-Russian S-400 air defenses, or Syrian-Russian fighter jets.

https://www.rt.com/news/358148-us-turkey-syria-mlrs/
US forces in Turkey hit ISIS in Syria with rocket fire - envoy
3 Sep, 2016

Washington has deployed mobile rocket artillery in the south of Turkey in order to target Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants in Syria, a special US envoy said on Saturday. This is the first reported rocket strikes delivered by US into Syria.

The US forces hit IS positions close to the Syrian border with Turkey last night, having launched the attack on terrorists with a "newly deployed" High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), the US-led anti-IS coalition's special presidential envoy, Brett McGurk said on Twitter.

The American embassy in Turkey confirmed the HIMARS deployment, calling it "the latest step in US-Turkey cooperation" in fighting the terror group in the region.

Ankara and Washington have reportedly held discussions regarding the deployment of US rocket launchers in Turkey since the spring. However, it was not immediately clear when the system was first deployed at the Turkish border with Syria, Reuters reported.

On Saturday, Turkey, which is a member of the US-led coalition, widened its military efforts on the ground to clear the territories near its borders from IS militants.

Having opened up a new line of attack, Ankara's tanks crossed the border into Syria from Kilis province, Reuters reported. On August 24, Turkey launched a ground incursion into Syria targeting IS and Kurdish fighters near the town of Jarabulus.

The US-led coalition has been fighting IS militants in Syria and Iraq since 2014.

The American forces have been largely carrying out airstrikes at terrorists targets in the region. Washington has also been involved in what it calls a training mission on the ground, providing local forces with weapons and expertise to fight the jihadists.
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Offline RE

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Why would the US start firing rockets at ISIS from Turkish territory, rather than their usual aerial bombing? - perhaps because they are afraid they are getting close to Syrian-Russian S-400 air defenses, or Syrian-Russian fighter jets.

They need to do Surgical Strikes on civilians and make sure they don't damage any military equipment.

RE
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Turkish Army takes another bite out of Syria.  Reuters makes it sound like it's all done and secured, which seems very unlikely.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey-idUSKCN11A0S1
Turkish-backed rebels clear IS from Turkey's Syrian border
By David Dolan and Orhan Coskun | ISTANBUL/ANKARA
Sep 4, 2016

Turkish-backed rebels on Sunday cleared Islamic State from Turkey's Syrian border, securing a 90 km (55 miles) corridor and marking a substantial gain in Ankara's plan to drive out Sunni militants and stop the advance of Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The rebels, mainly Syrian Arabs and Turkmen fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, took charge of the frontier between Azaz and Jarablus after seizing 20 villages from the Sunni hardline group, the Turkish military said in a statement.

That puts Turkey in firm control of a stretch of land it sees as a bulwark against the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. However, that could sharpen tensions with the United States over Syria policy.

Turkey is fighting a three-decade-old Kurdish insurgency in its southeast and fears that gains by the Syrian Kurdish YPG will embolden militants at home. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

"We are there to protect our border, to provide for our citizens safety of life and property, and to ensure Syria's integrity," Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a speech on Sunday, discussing the incursion, which Ankara calls Euphrates Shield.

"We will never allow the formation of an artificial state in the north of Syria," he told a crowd in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

The advance took place little more than a week after Turkey launched the Syrian incursion, deploying tanks and air power to support the rebels, who swept into the border town of Jarablus.

On Saturday, Turkey and its rebel allies opened a new line of attack in northern Syria, rolling across the border some 55 km (34 miles) west of Jarablus.

The United States had said on Saturday it some Islamic State targets in the region, but it did not say where.

While the United States and Europe also regard the PKK as a terrorist group, Washington sees the YPG as a separate entity and an effective client in the fight against Islamic State in Syria. That position has caused friction with Turkey, a NATO member and a partner in anti-IS coalition.

'TERROR CORRIDOR'

President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday raised concern about the formation of a "terror corridor" along Turkey's Syrian border.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the G20 gathering of world leaders in China, Erdogan said: "It is our wish that a terror corridor not be formed across our southern border".

Erdogan has repeatedly said that Turkey's allies should not be making a distinction between Islamic State and the YPG as both groups pose a threat to Turkey.

Some Kurds have criticized Turkey for its role in Syria. A demonstration broke out along the Syrian border on Friday, where Turkey is building a concrete wall. Police used tear gas and water cannon to drive the protesters back.

At a rally in Istanbul on Sunday, the co-head of Turkey's Kurdish-rooted Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) denounced the incursion into Syria as an "invasion".

"The government, which says it wants to stop ISIS (Islamic State) with the Jarablus invasion, has no credibility. The invasion of Jarablus is totally an adversarial approach against Kurds and we will never accept it," Selahattin Demirtas told reporters.

Separately, Anadolu said Turkish warplanes hit four Islamic State positions on Saturday evening in Syria's northwestern Aleppo province as part of the operation, citing security sources.

The warplanes hit three targets in the al-Kaldi area and another in the Wuguf region, Anadolu said, citing the sources.
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Offline Palloy

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Re: Turkish tanks cross Syrian border in military op
« Reply #18 on: September 16, 2016, 05:17:43 PM »
So now the Turkish-backed Syrian moderate rebels don't like the US special forces that are supporting them.  It doesn't say what they think of the US-backed Syrian moderate rebels elsewhere in Syria, or the US-backed non-moderate rebels, who both the Russians and the US are supposed to be still targetting.

https://www.rt.com/news/359591-syria-us-forces-rebels/
'Crusaders! Infidels! Dogs! Get out!' American-backed rebels force US commandos to leave Syrian town
16 Sep, 2016

“Five or six” US special forces troops had to withdraw from the town of al-Rai on Syria’s border with Turkey, after allies from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) had driven them out, calling them “infidels” and “crusaders,” several media outlets have reported.

The Turkish military, which last month openly crossed the Syrian border to fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), has admitted that US soldiers are providing a supporting and coordinating role in the operation being carried out between the Syrian towns of Azaz and al-Rai, Reuters reports.

At least two videos circulated on Twitter on Friday evening appeared to show that they were not welcome in al-Rai.

The footage shows a group of agitated men, gathered in the town square, shouting anti-American slogans in Arabic, as a cavalcade of vehicles passes by.

The chants include: "Down with America," "Get out you dogs," and "They are coming to Syria to occupy it." Voices in the background call the US troops “pigs” and “crusaders.”

"We don't want a single American fighting in Syria alongside us," says a man in the second video. "We are Muslims, we are not infidels. Get out!"

Reuters cited a US official and a “senior rebel commander,” who confirmed that a protest had taken place, which ended with US troops making their way back towards the Turkish border.

Later, a group of rebels purporting to be representatives of Ahrar al-Sharqiya, a militia operating in the area, circulated a video statement, saying that US support of Kurds, who are also fighting Islamic State, was behind their protest.

"We and other FSA groups fighting in and around Aleppo say that we remain a free army, and refuse to fight on the side of Americans, who support the terrorist Kurdish PKK. We are halting all military activities until US troops leave the region."

The US State Department spokesman John Kirby said the "rhetoric" used by the rebels was “not appropriate” and acknowledged that the opposition “is not a monolith,” but still praised the overall success of Turkey’s operation inside northern Syria.

“We knew all along that the Turkish forces would be teaming up with some opposition forces, and in this they have been successful. So, let’s keep in mind the greater goal, which was to choke off that stretch of border so that [ISIS] can’t use it,” he said during a press briefing in Washington.

“We’ve discovered this many times in Muslim world, where the US deploys its troops, whether it’s Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Syria, it is seen as the enemy, the occupier. Secondly, the incident highlights the problems the US has been having in identifying moderate Syrian rebels – despite spending billions of dollars 'developing' them - and the fact that this is coming from the supposed allies in the FSA isn’t actually surprising,” Max Abrahms, an associate professor of political science at Northwestern told RT.

The Pentagon says it has allocated 40 special operations forces combatants to participate in the Turkish incursion. According to CNN, the joint effort has been labeled Operation Noble Lance, and is the first time the two forces have fought side by side on Syrian soil since the start of the conflict.
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http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-seems-to-be-preparing-for-a-long-term-stay-in-northern-syria.aspx?pageID=449&nID=104075&NewsCatID=429
Turkey seems to be preparing for a long-term stay in northern Syria
SERKAN DEMİRTAŞ
21 Sept 2016

It has been nearly a month since Turkey and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched the Euphrates’ Shield Operation, which is considered a successful military move given the results so far.

The first two phases of the operation were considered relatively easy, as a majority of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in towns like Jarabulus and al-Rai had already withdrawn. As a result, the 98-kilometer strip of the border between the Mare-Jarabulus line was cleared of ISIL jihadists while the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the FSA was able to control an area of 900 square kilometers. However, ISIL is still actively fighting in regions around al-Rai and could re-capture some villages. After Aug. 24, Turkey lost two tanks and five troops in clashes with ISIL jihadists in the first two phases of the cross-border operation.

As was clear from the beginning of the operation, the Turkish government has no intention of stopping its military offensive at this point. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan explicitly announced that Ankara’s target is to go further south in Syria until it makes its border fully safe.

Erdoğan also defined Turkey’s next target as part of the third phase of the operation: Clearing ISIL from al-Bab. In addition, he revealed that Turkey’s operation would lead to the creation of a 5,000-square kilometer safe zone. There are reports that the Turkish army has already started preparations for expanding its influence in the region.

At present it seems that Ankara has three main objectives:

1. As stated at the outset, Turkey needs to fully seal its border to ISIL crossings in both directions. This objective seems to have been realized in the first two phases. The presence of ISIL militants just over the border is now avoided. But as proven in different parts of the country, ISIL could re-capture the places it has lost to other fighting groups, which is why a considerable area should be taken under control. Kicking ISIL out of al-Bab will have an important effect to this end.

2. Turkey’s second major objective is to nix the plans of Syrian Kurdish groups to connect their Afrin and Kobane cantons for future territorial claims and political ambitions. After Turkey’s sealing of its border, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), are eyeing to create a corridor between two cantons through al-Bab. The YPG’s ambition to advance further west and to fight against ISIL in al-Bab is well-known by all parties. There seems to be a race between the Turkey-backed FSA and the YPG in reaching this critical town.

But neither of them should expect an easy victory there. Al-Bab, meaning “the door” in Arabic, is also seen as strategic for ISIL and the jihadists will do everything they can to defend the city. Turkey expects the United States-led anti-ISIL coalition to be heavily engaged in any operation in al-Bab, which would also pave the way for a more coordinated and efficient offensive into Raqqa in the coming months if al-Bab is indeed liberated.

We should underscore once again here that the differences between Ankara and Washington over the PYD’s role will continue to be the most important obstacle to coherent cooperation between the two allies.

3. Turkey’s third and most important goal is creating a safe zone inside Syria, which would include Manbij and its surrounding areas. After the breaking of the ceasefire and the collapse of the Russia-U.S. agreement, Turkey will find itself in a better situation in explaining why this aim is so important. The return of Syrians into Jarabulus is already being used as an argument by the Turkish government in justifying the objectives of its military action. At a moment when nobody can foresee how long the unrest in Syria will continue and what consequences it will bring about, Turkey and its close regional partners, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, will be able to ignore criticisms.

Being aware of concerns about the open-ended Turkish incursion into Syria, Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar has sought to reassure allies and regional partners that Turkey has no eye on Syria’s territories. Akar’s statement came only days after he hosted his Russian counterpart Valery Gerasimov, as he explained the motives of the operation to his NATO colleagues at a meeting in Croatia last weekend.

It is no secret that Russia and the U.S., as well as Iran, are unhappy with Turkey’s further advance south, concerned that this could further complicate the already messy situation and spark fresh, unwanted conflicts between Turkey-FSA and other fighting groups, namely the PYD and the Bashar al-Assad regime.

The coming days will help us better envisage future developments in the region, but today’s picture suggests a long-term Turkish military presence in Syrian territory.
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Offline Palloy

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The Pentagon leaks the "new plan" to NYT, the WH has no comment.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/22/world/middleeast/obama-syria-kurds-isis-turkey-military-commandos.html?_r=0
Obama Administration Considers Arming Syrian Kurds Against ISIS
ERIC SCHMITT
SEPT. 21, 2016


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is weighing a military plan to directly arm Syrian Kurdish fighters combating the Islamic State, a major policy shift that could speed up the offensive against the terrorist group but also sharply escalate tensions between Turkey and the United States.

The plan has been under discussion by the National Security Council staff at a moment when President Obama has directed aides to examine all proposals that could accelerate the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Mr. Obama has told aides that he wants an offensive well underway before he leaves office that is aimed at routing the Islamic State from Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital in northern Syria.

Deciding whether to arm the Syrian Kurds is a difficult decision for Mr. Obama, who is caught in the middle trying to balance the territorial and political ambitions of Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, two warring American allies that Washington needs to combat the Islamic insurgency.

Directly providing weapons for the first time to the Syrian Kurds, whom American commanders view as their most effective ground partner against the Islamic State, would help build momentum for the assault on Raqqa. But arming them would also aggravate Mr. Obama’s already tense relations with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The United States and Turkey sharply disagree over Syria’s Kurdish militias, which Turkey sees as its main enemy in Syria.

The plan has filtered up through the Pentagon’s Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East. It calls for providing the Syrian Kurds with small arms and ammunition, and some other supplies, for specific missions, but no heavy weapons such as antitank or antiaircraft weapons.

American officials note that the proposal has not yet been presented at the administration’s highest levels for decision. White House officials declined to comment on it.

The review of the military plan comes as American commanders fear that their timetable to take Raqqa was set back after Turkey recently plunged into Syria with ground forces for the first time. The Turkish offensive cut off a crucial Islamic State supply route but also rolled back the territorial gains of Kurdish militias, who despite help on the ground from American Special Operations advisers have criticized the United States for allying with Turkey.

American commanders view the plan to arm the Syrian Kurds, whose population straddles the border with Turkey, as an incentive to keep them on board for the fight against the Islamic State. Asked if the recent volatile military and political situation around the Syrian-Turkish border had slowed the pace for taking Raqqa, Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of Central Command, said last week that it might have.

“We don’t necessarily control the timeline ourselves,” General Votel told a security conference here sponsored by the Institute for the Study of War.

Associates of General Votel say he has expressed much greater concern in private over maintaining momentum in the fight against the Islamic State, especially if the Syrian Kurds and Turkey continue to clash with each other.

General Votel said last week, “We have to play a leadership role on both sides” — Turks and Kurds — “and keep focus on the mission to defeat ISIS.”

In the past two years the Pentagon has provided small arms, ammunition and other supplies to a group acceptable to Turkey — the Syrian Arabs, a minority in the Kurdish-dominated umbrella group that is fighting the Islamic State. About 350 resupply deliveries have been made by air or by land to the Syrian Arab militias, according to the American military command in Iraq.

But out of deference to Turkey, the United States has not directly armed the Kurdish fighters themselves.

Many analysts say the Pentagon’s support to the Syrian Arabs is basically cover for aid to the Syrian Kurds, who call the shots in the wider alliance, coordinate airstrikes with the United States, and are considered the most capable fighters. But arming the Kurds directly, even for just specific missions, would still be a significant shift practically and symbolically.

“If this happened, the fig leaf would disappear and it would be a very serious, contentious issue between the two countries,” said Soner Cagaptay, a specialist on Turkey at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Five senior American officials who have been briefed on the proposal discussed it on the condition that they not be identified because the plan is still under review. They all said that any direct aid to the Kurds would be one piece of a larger strategy to defeat the Islamic State in Syria.

One practical goal of the plan is to equip the Syrian Kurds after their spearheading of several fiercely fought battles against the Islamic State in the past several months, starting near Syria’s border with Iraq to, most recently, the strategically important city of Manbij, where the terrorist group had established processing centers for hundreds of newly arrived recruits. The city was also a final way-stop for more seasoned fighters heading back to Europe through Turkey.

The Kurds have also recently lost one regular source of arms — the Syrian government — as a result of the political rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, and clashes between Kurds and Syrian Army troops.

Politically, the aid would also seek to assuage the hard feelings the Syrian Kurds have felt toward their American allies since the Turkish offensive into Syria, American officials said.

Just last week, American Special Operations forces arrived in northern Syria to work alongside Turkish troops combating the Islamic State, the Pentagon said Friday, emphasizing that the approximately three dozen Americans would serve in an “advise and assist” capacity.

Turkish news outlets reported this month that Mr. Erdogan had suggested that his country was prepared to conduct a joint operation with the United States to defeat the Islamic State in Raqqa. American officials, however, have played down that discussion, and have said the United States is still trying to figure how to assemble enough ground forces to take back Raqqa.

Across the border in Iraq, security forces will be ready to push into Mosul in October, the top American general said Monday.

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him aboard a United States military aircraft that the final decision on when to retake Mosul rests with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq, according to Reuters. The general added that “our job is to actually help the Iraqis generate the forces and the support necessary for operations in Mosul, and we’ll be ready for that in October.”
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Offline Palloy

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You should, of course, apply the appropriate amount of skepticism to RT reports as you do to US ones, but honestly ...

https://www.rt.com/usa/360317-carter-dunford-syria-russia-senate/
No-fly zone would ‘require war with Syria and Russia’ – top US general
22 Sep, 2016

Speaking to the US Senate, the Pentagon’s leaders blamed Russia for the Aleppo aid convoy attack, but admitted they “had no facts.” Only US coalition planes should be allowed over Syria, they said, though that would require war against both Syria and Russia.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter and General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, faced the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday to report on the ongoing military operations and “national security challenges” faced by the US. They also asked the senators for more reliable funding, saying the uncertainty was hurting the defense industry.

“Not only our people – our defense industry partners, too, need stability and longer-term plans to be as efficient and cutting-edge as we need them to be,” Carter told the senators.

The lawmakers were far less interested in the war against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) than about the future of the Syrian government, Iran’s “malign influence,” and “aggression” by China and Russia – all ranked far ahead of terrorism on Carter and Dunford’s list of security challenges.

The Pentagon had “no intention” of sharing intelligence with Russia when it came to Syria, Dunford told the lawmakers unequivocally. Secretary Carter explained that the joint implementation councils envisioned by the ceasefire proposal negotiated in Geneva wouldn’t share intelligence, just coordinate efforts – but that they were a moot point anyway, since the ceasefire was effectively dead.

Both the lawmakers and the Pentagon chiefs blamed that development on Russia, focusing on the alleged airstrike against the humanitarian convoy in east Aleppo while the US-led airstrike against the Syrian Army fighting IS in Deir ez-Zor went unmentioned.

“I don’t have the facts,” Dunford said, when asked about the convoy attack by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut). “It was either the Russians or the regime,” he added.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the Russians are responsible,” whether directly or because they backed the government in Damascus, Dunford said, describing the attack as “an unacceptable atrocity.”

Carter explained Dunford’s logic in a response to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), saying that “the Russians are responsible for this strike whether they conducted it or not, because they took responsibility for the conduct of the Syrians by associating themselves with the Syrian regime.

The latest proposal by Secretary of State John Kerry involves grounding only Syrian and Russian airplanes, Carter told Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire).

“There can be no question of grounding US aircraft” over Syria, he said, adding that US jets conduct their strikes “with exceptional precision… that no other country can match.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) asked about what it would take for the US to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, using the phrase “control the airspace.”

“Right now… for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia,” Dunford replied, drawing a rebuke from committee chairman John McCain (R-Arizona), who argued a no-fly zone was possible without war.

Asked about the video of US-backed Syrian rebels insulting US Special Forces in Al-Rai and running them out of the northern Syrian town, Carter and Dunford shrugged it off.

A “very small minority took verbal action” against US troops, said Dunford, who admitted he did not watch the video but had discussed it with US commanders. He said the incident was “irrelevant” because the US-backed forces and Turkey were making “great progress” along Syria’s northern border.

In their exchange with Graham, Carter and Dunford confirmed there is a plan to arm the Kurdish militia in Syria, over Turkish objections, as a way of advancing on the IS stronghold of Raqqa. Once Raqqa is taken, however, an Arab force would be required to hold it. “We have a plan,” Dunford said, but described it as “not resourced.”

Dunford agreed with Graham’s assertion that the US had two objectives – to destroy IS and to “remove Assad,” referring to the Syrian president – but admitted the Kurds were not interested in the latter.

“If the main fighting force inside of Syria is not signed up to take Assad out, where does that force come from?” Graham asked. Neither Dunford nor Carter had an answer to that.

Both the Pentagon heads and the lawmakers agreed throughout the hearing that caps on military spending mandated by sequestration were harmful and needed to be repealed. Lack of funding posed a significant threat to readiness and maintenance, Carter and Dunford argued, before pointing out that the US military was still the strongest, most powerful and most competent in the world.
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