Turkey resumes Afrin operation in northern Syria

Turkish troops are being positioned near Idlib and Aleppo in a move apparently unrelated to their assault on Kurds in Afrin

Russian Federation and the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which Russian Federation has been supporting with a campaign of air strikes and other military action since September 2015, refer to most of the forces fighting against the government as terrorists.

USA officials said on Thursday that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US -backed militia force, had captured Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, two of four militants known as the "Beatles" for their English accents. A stronghold of Islamic State militants until late past year, the province also was the group's main source of oil revenue.

While fighting IS in Syria, the USA has backed the Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the People's Protection Units or YPG — a group that Ankara considers "terrorists" and allied with Kurdish insurgents within Turkey, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

The US is supporting the YPG in Syria fighting against ISIS while American forces are not in Afrin.

During a phone interview with The Independent, a former IS fighter named Faraj from northeast Syria, who reportedly closely monitors the movement of extremists, said Turkey was "training IS members and sending them to Afrin".

"All the Kurds adhere to the same national racial tendency that centers about finding an entity for themselves", Mr Al Asmar said, referring to Syrian and Iraqi projects for autonomy in both countries.

"Why are you staying there (in Manbij)?"

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It's not the first time USA -led forces in the country primarily to hunt ISIS have targeted pro-Assad forces in self-defense. Last year, US aircraft shot down a Syrian jet after pro-government forces attacked USA allied units in northern Syria.

Since then in areas they have seized, Turkey has allowed the rebels to be the face of governance, while exercising influence through its security apparatuses, said Nicholas Heras, a Syria expert at the Center for a New American Security.

"We got the majority of the missiles we have from the black market in Idlib, Azaz, Al Bab and Jarablus", Mr Mahmoud said, naming areas of Syria under the control of those groups.

The Turkish military intervention codenamed "Operation Olive Branch" started in mid-January, and has focused on combatting Kurdish militant or terrorist groups such as the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the People's Protection Units (YPG), the latter of which is backed by the United States.

"I'm very confident in the (Syrian Democratic Forces) leadership", Funk said, referring to the USA -backed Syrian forces mostly made up the YPG.

They ask when we're going to finish our operation in Syria. Instead, the US made a decision to embrace the PKK/PYD as its principal ally in Syria, which had been patronized by Iran and the Syrian regime. Pockets of IS fighters, however, remain in eastern Syria between the Euphrates River and the Iraqi border.

The Turkish General Staff has said the Afrin operation was aimed at establishing security and stability along Turkish borders and the region as well as protecting the Syrian people from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists.

But Funk downplayed the significance of the attacks, describing them as just "harassing".

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