USA to maintain military presence in Syria - Tillerson

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The Turkish ground and air offensive on Afrin, code-named "Operation Olive Branch, " began Saturday, raising tensions in the already-complicated Syrian conflict and threatening to further strain ties between Turkey and the United States, both North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

USA backing of Kurdish forces - the Syrian Democratic Forces - has given rise to concerns by the Syrian government, its sponsor Russian Federation, and by Turkey that the enclave could become a semi-autonomous region.

The latest development leading up to the Afrin operation was an announcement by the USA military earlier this month that it was going to create a 30,000-member border force with the Kurdish fighters to secure northern Syria.

On Saturday, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh terror groups from northwestern Afrin region of Syria.

Syrian troops have retaken the strategic Abu al-Duhur military airport, located deep within the country's final major pocket of rebel territory, which has recently been split in two by the pro-government offensive.

The Turkish operation is targeting the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin, to which tens of thousands of Syrians have fled from other parts of the country.

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A spokesman for the SDF said on Monday that the strikes had killed 18 and wounded 23, according to Reuters.

"Naturally in light of the Turkish attack on our areas and the Russian collusion with them (Turkey), and the Russian support for them, Sochi no longer has any meaning in order to participate in it", he added.

In the span of a few days, Turkish jets and tanks poured over Syria's border and dropped bombs as artillery pieces shelled the Afrin, where the YPG meant to set up its border force. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again blasted the United States for supporting what he called a "terrorist organization" on Monday. "It is spending billions of dollars a year to prop up Assad and wage proxy wars at the expense of supporting its own people", Tillerson said, adding, "Diminishing" Iran's influence in Syria is a key goal for United States policy in Syria.

As part of the investigation by the Diyarbakir's Chief Public Prosecutors Office, eight people were arrested in the southeastern province when anti-terrorism units carried out simultaneous operations across the province, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, said.

Well, unfortunately, Turkey was unable to create a local Syrian counter-ISIS force because the groups that Turkey suggested that the USA work with didn't want to fight ISIS: they wanted to fight Assad first.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to expand the operation, threatening to push farther east to the town of Manbij, which the Kurdish fighters had liberated of Islamic State militants in 2016 and now administer. "As the first step to take, they can stop arming terror groups and take back weapons already given", Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

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Turkey sees the YPG presence on its southern border as a domestic security threat.

The Kremlin says it is watching developments attentively and is in contact with Damascus and Ankara.

"So we're in discussions with the Turks and some of the forces on the ground as well as to how we can stabilize this situation and meet Turkey's legitimate concerns for their security", Tillerson said.

While Turkey's Western allies, including the USA, consider the PKK a terrorist group, Washington has offered direct military and logistical support for Syrian Kurdish militants, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, to fight IS in Syria.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, an umbrella group dominated by the YPG, said in a statement that the operation amounted to "clear support" for IS.

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