Turkish troops targeted in Afrin suicide attack

Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army members have seized control of Mt. Barsaya near the town of Afrin, a strategically important high point. (Reuters)
Updated 30 January 2018
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Turkish troops targeted in Afrin suicide attack

ANKARA: A female Kurdish suicide bomber targeted Turkish troops on Sunday in Syria’s northwest region of Afrin, but caused no casualties, said the Turkish military.
The attacker, Avesta Khabur, was part of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), the female component of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“The attack was from a long distance, so the tank that was carrying soldiers wasn’t damaged,” Abdullah Agar, a security expert and retired special warfare and commando officer, told Arab News. “Ankara is showing great determination in continuing its operation.”
The New York Times said the attack “puts the US in the awkward position of allying with suicide bombers.”
Since the start of Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on Jan. 20, 597 Kurdish fighters have been “neutralized” — surrendered, killed or captured — said the Turkish military.
On Sunday, following heavy clashes, Turkish troops and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured the strategic Mount Bursaya in northern Syria.
Mount Bursaya was used by the YPG to strike the Turkish border town of Kilis and the Syrian city of Azaz with artillery, mortars and missiles.
On the fourth day of Operation Olive Branch, a YPG rocket hit a mosque in Kilis, killing two civilians. So far, seven Turkish soldiers and 13 FSA fighters have been killed in the campaign.
“It was known for a long time that the YPG was making preparations to conduct a suicide bombing,” Sertac Canalp Korkmaz, a researcher on security studies at ORSAM, a think tank in Ankara, told Arab News.
“Last week, weather conditions in Afrin were severe. On the battlefield, foggy weather allows terrorists to carry out suicide attacks,” he said. “But countermeasures by the Turkish military will help prevent such attacks.”
Korkmaz underlined Turkey’s significant combat experience against suicide bombing attempts.
“During last year’s Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, the Turkish Army faced several suicide attacks by Daesh against military outposts,” he said.
Daesh and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have also carried out suicide attacks in Turkey, targeting civilians, including foreigners, and police officers.
On Monday, Turkish law-enforcement officials caught a Daesh suspect, Demet Tasar, who was wanted by Interpol. She and 19 other suspects were allegedly plotting suicide attacks in Turkey.
Last week, 1,166 people were detained throughout the country for suspected ties to the PKK, while 34 people were arrested for suspected links to Daesh.


US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

Updated 21 January 2019
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US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

  • Former envoy Brett McGurk says the absence of a plan is increasing the risk to US forces
  • Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, Daesh had been defeated

WASHINGTON: The United States has no plan for Syria as it proceeds with President Donald Trump’s order to pull American troops out of the country, a top official who quit in protest at the policy said on Sunday.
Brett McGurk, who was America’s envoy to the US-led global coalition against the Daesh group, said “there’s no plan for what’s coming next” and this is increasing the risk to US forces.
He spoke in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” after a suicide bomber on Wednesday killed four Americans and 15 others in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. It was the deadliest attack to hit US troops since they deployed to Syria in 2014 to assist local forces against the Daesh group.
The bombing came after Trump’s announcement last month that he was ordering a full withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops from Syria, shocking allies and leading to the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as well as McGurk.
Senior US officials have since given contradictory statements about US intentions, but the Pentagon said it had begun the withdrawal, although how long it would take remained uncertain.
“The president has made that clear — we are leaving. And that means our force should be really with one mission: to get out and get out safely,” McGurk told “Face the Nation.”
But he added: “Right now we do not have a plan. It increases a vulnerability of our force... It is increasing the risk to our people on the ground in Syria and will open up space for Daesh,” another acronym for IS.
Most importantly, said McGurk, the US cannot expect “a partner” such as NATO-ally Turkey to take the place of the United States.
“That is not realistic. And if our forces are under order to withdraw, as at the same time they are trying to find some formula for another coalition partner to come in, that is not workable. That is not a viable plan.”
Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, IS had been defeated — something McGurk and other experts dispute.
McGurk has previously warned that the US pullout would shore up Syria’s President Bashar Assad and lessen America’s leverage with Russia and Iran.