850 sq km now under control in Afrin: Erdogan

Erdogan questions US presence in Syria

"Now our objective is Afrin".

Rami Abel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Observatory, said the aim was to besiege Afrin, cutting it off from other areas. He said forces were just 6 km from Afrin.

The United States, which has infuriated Turkey with its support for the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said Turkey's offensive on Afrin has diverted attention from the fight against Islamic State.

To remind, on January 20, the Turkish Armed Forces General Staff announced launch of the Olive Branch operation in the Syrian Afrin controlled by the Kurdish militia.

Ankara said it might also extend its aggression further east to Manbij unless the PYD/PKK leaves the strategically located city.

Erdogan questioned why North Atlantic Treaty Organisation had not come to Turkey s aid in its Syria operation when Ankara had backed critical alliance campaigns worldwide. Ankara is wary of the presence of Kurdish militants close to its borders in Syria, and has been opposed to Washington's efforts to train and arm them in the Arab country.

US armored vehicles patrol near the town of Manbij controlled by Kurdish-led forces Syria Feb. 10 2018
US armored vehicles patrol near the town of Manbij controlled by Kurdish-led forces Syria Feb. 10 2018

"We have established working groups for that", Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit on Friday.

"The entire [area] is 2,000 square kilometer".

"To date 850 square kilometers have been taken under our control".

Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralised" in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.

The Kurdish YPG is contesting this claim, however, with YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud saying that the Turks are more like 10 to 15 km away from Afrin, and that they definitely do not have the city surrounded. "Where there are terrorists, we'll be there", he added, referring to Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Despite encountering fierce resistance - which has caused the death of 42 Turkish troops - Turkey's military and its Syrian allies appear to have gained new momentum in the last weeks.

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