Donald Trump green-lighted Turkey’s invasion of Syria to attack our strongest allies in the fight against ISIS terrorism, the Kurds. Turkey wasted little time in invading Syria.
Now Trump’s impulsive and incomprehensible action has put U.S. troops at risk. U.S. forces say Turkey was deliberately ‘bracketing’ American troops with artillery fire in Syria:
Turkish forces who launched multiple artillery rounds near a U.S. Special Operations outpost in northeastern Syria on Friday have known for months that Americans were there, according to four current and former U.S. officials, raising questions whether Turkey is trying to push American troops farther from the border.
The incident occurred on a hilltop base overlooking the town of Kobane as Turkey continues an operation launched Wednesday against Syrian Kurds, some of whom the United States has partnered with for years in its campaign against the Islamic State. The incursion has focused on an area 60 miles to the west of Kobane, but U.S. officials believe Turkey has long-term aspirations to control a much larger swath of Syria.
The rounds landed about 9 p.m. within a few hundred yards of the base on Mistenur Hill, U.S. officials said. Navy Capt. Brook DeWalt, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement that the U.S. troops “came under artillery fire” but were unharmed and that there was an explosion.
“The U.S. demands that Turkey avoid actions that could result in immediate defensive action,” DeWalt said.
[T]he situation, first reported by Newsweek, was more serious than characterized Friday, several officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
One Army officer who has deployed to northeastern Syria and has knowledge of the situation said that multiple rounds of 155 mm fire were launched from Turkey’s side of the border and that they had a “bracketing effect” in which shells landed on both sides of the U.S. outpost.
“That’s an area weapon,” the officer said, noting its explosive effects. “That’s not something we ever would have done to a partner force.”
The officer said Turkey knew there were Americans on the hill and that it had to be deliberate. The service members vacated the outpost after the incident but returned Saturday, according to a U.S. official and images circulating on social media.
“We had been there for months, and it is the most clearly defined position in that entire area,” the officer said.
Brett McGurk, a former special envoy for both the Obama and Trump administrations in the campaign against the Islamic State, raised concerns about the incident Friday, saying on Twitter that the United States had declared the position to Turkey.
“This was not a mistake,” he said.
McGurk, who often collaborated with the U.S. military in Syria before resigning his position in December, emphasized the increasing risks to Americans throughout Syria in an email Saturday.
“Turkey wants us off the entire border region to a depth of 30 kilometers,” or about 20 miles, he said. “Based on all the facts available, these were warning fires on a known location, not inadvertent rounds.”
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Turkey appears to have aspirations to push the United States away from Kobane, as well, several officials said. The Army officer with knowledge of Syria said Turkish forces previously have launched artillery over the border near U.S. forces.
Milley, speaking Friday at the Pentagon shortly before the incident outside Kobane, said the Turkish military “is fully aware, down to explicit grid coordinate detail,” of the location of U.S. troops in Syria. He said senior U.S. military officials are coordinating with the Turks “to make sure that they know exactly where American forces are.”
Another U.S. defense official, also speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the Pentagon “obviously” told Turkey where U.S. troops are and “they certainly [went] closer than we would have liked” in the incident outside Kobane.
“Whether that’s intentional or reckless, either way it’s troubling,” the official said.
U.S. troops withdrew on Sunday from another town in Syria as Turkish-backed forces pushed deeper inside Syrian territory, seizing positions along a major highway that serves as the U.S. military’s main supply route and cutting off access to U.S. troops further west, according to a U.S. official.
And just as was predicted:
The withdrawal came amid reports that hundreds of Islamic State supporters may have escaped from a camp housing displaced people in the town of Ain Issa, taking advantage of the mayhem that ensued as Turkish artillery pounded the area.
The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria said in a statement that 785 people affiliated to the Islamic State were among those who got away, escaping from a camp that had housed 12,000 displaced people, mostly women and children.
Around a thousand of those as Islamic State supporters, almost all of them foreigners, were housed in a separate section of the camp known as the Annex, which is now “completely empty,” according to an aid worker who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
The claim that the Islamic State-linked families had escaped could not be independently confirmed, but Kurdish officials and aid groups said thousands of civilians were also leaving, fleeing across fields to escape the shelling. Aid workers had also been told to evacuate by the U.S. military.
Ain Issa, 20 miles south of the Turkish border, served as the headquarters of the Kurdish led administration in northeast Syria and owes its significance to its position beside the important M4 highway, which runs across northeastern Syria from the Iraqi border.
It is the main supply route in and out of Syria for the 1,000 U.S. troops deployed there, as well as for much of the limited aid that reaches northeastern Syria.
As the Turkish-backed Syrian rebels closed in on Sunday, the small number of U.S. troops based in the town were relocated to other bases in Syria, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the press.
Turkish backed rebels have now set up checkpoints on the highway near Ain Issa, cutting off the U.S. troops in bases to the west, in Manbij and Kobane. Those troops came under Turkish artillery fire Friday night in what some U.S. soldiers suspect was a deliberate attempt to drive them away from the bulk of the U.S. forces further east, Kurdish and U.S. officials said.
It is almost only a matter of time before those troops are pulled back too, said the official.
In Washington, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said that Trump had ordered U.S. troops to relocate to the south of Turkey’s attacks against their Kurdish allies, but not to leave Syria.
But with their supply lines severed, their Kurdish allies focused on fighting Turkey and not the Islamic State and the region in disarray, the entire U.S. presence in northeast Syria is starting to appear increasingly unsustainable, U.S. officials and analysts say.
So is the international aid effort to assist the tens of thousands of people displaced by the fighting. The M4 highway is also an important conduit for the limited amounts of aid reaching northeast Syria, and with a portion of the highway now under Turkish control, future aid supplies at risk.
The Kurdish administration said all deliveries of food and medical aid have now been suspended and there were indications that some agencies have begun withdrawing their staff.
According to a U.N. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press, half the aid workers in the SDF-held areas have how evacuated, with others expected to follow.
Ain Issa is the third town from which U.S. troops have withdrawn since President Trump announced that the U.S. would not stand in the way of a Turkish invasion of northeast Syria aimed at pushing U.S. allied Kurdish-led forces away from the Turkish border. Around 50 troops withdrew on Monday from the border towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, which were the first targets of the Turkish advance.
The Turkish atrocities against the Kurds have already begun, and Trump’s response is “stand aside, do not interfere.” CNN reports Kurdish politician and 10 others killed by ‘Turkish-backed militia’ in Syria, SDF claims:
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say a prominent politician, her driver, members of Kurdish security forces and several civilians were killed by Turkish-backed militants in Syria on Saturday, after videos circulating online appeared to show the killings.
The Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army or FSA (also called the Syrian National Army), have denied those claims. CNN cannot independently verify the videos.
A video circulating on social media purports to show the bullet-riddled SUV of Secretary-General of the pro-Kurdish Future Syria Party, Hevrin Khalaf, surrounded by several men wearing what appears to be military fatigues.
In a separate video, a body of a woman — believed to be Khalaf — is seen lying in rubble with her face and hair covered in dust. At least one man can be seen standing over her and filming. He taps the body with his feet and says, “this is the corpse of pigs.” The video is filmed up close and little else can be seen in the clip.
Local journalist Ousama Muhammed, who knows Khalaf, told CNN that the vehicle belongs to her. Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Council — the political wing of the SDF (who led the charge in defeating ISIS in Syria) — blamed Turkish-backed militias in a statement on Khalaf’s death.
“She was taken out of her car during a Turkish-backed attack and executed by Turkish-backed mercenary factions on the International Road between Qamishlo and Manbij, with her driver who was also martyred,” the statement said.
Turkish media reports that Khalaf had been killed by aerial bombardment. CNN cannot independently verify how or where Khalaf died.
Several other videos posted online appear to show at least one man on a roadside with his hands tied in northern Syria, whose lifeless body is being fired upon as a man cries out in Arabic “film me shooting him with a sniper rifle” and “pigs…prisoners..kill them.”
A media activist on the scene told the New York Times that two men who appeared in the former video — the one who is dead, and another who appears in that clip alive — were both killed by a faction allied with the Turkish-backed FSA militia in northern Syria on Saturday.
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The FSA said in a separate statement that they emphasize their “obligation to follow third Geneva Convention 1949 about the treatment of war prisoners and their rights” and said if there had been any violation, it would “follow it up, investigate and hold accountability and search for those who are participating and turn them into the martial judiciary system immediately.”
SDF Press Commander Marivan Qamishlo told CNN that as many as 11 people, including Khalaf, were executed in the same area.
“Nine civilians were executed at the M4 location and two members of the ‘Asayish’ Kurdish internal security forces at a small check point”, says Qamishlo.
The Washington Post confirms, Turkish-led forces film themselves executing a Kurdish captive in Syria:
The Turkish army is leading the incursion, but is relying heavily on Syrian rebels to provide the manpower for the effort to drive the Kurdish-led SDF away from Turkey’s border.
A separate video shows the fighters crowding round a black, bullet ridden SUV that had apparently come under a hail of gunfire before being forced to stop. As the fighters step over the body of a dead man in civilian clothing to reach inside the vehicle, a female voice is briefly heard coming from the back seat.
“Another fleeing pig has been liquidated by the hands of the National Army. He was fleeing in an armored car,” says one of the fighters as the others clamor to be filmed
What happened next is unclear, but the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the woman in the car was Kurdish politician, Hevrin Khalaf, whose body was found later in the day in a nearby morgue. Khalaf was the secretary general of a newly established party, the Future Party of Syria.
A Turkish newspaper, Yeni Safak, trumpeted her killing as a “successful operation” against a politician affiliated with the “terrorist” People’s Democratic Union, the Kurdish political party that runs northeast Syria.
The newspaper said she had been “neutralized” in the operation, and described her death as a big setback for the group.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, a total of nine civilians were executed on Saturday at the roadblock to the south of the town of Tal Abyad. Several other photos and videos posted by the Ahrar al-Sharqiya rebel group, which was apparently among those involved in manning the roadblock, show captured men surrounded by fighters on the side of the road.
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The videoed killing and others that may have occurred off camera almost certainly constitute a war crime, according to international law, and may breach one of the conditions Trump set for allowing the Turkish offensive to go ahead unhindered by U.S. troops in the area. In a tweet last week he cautioned the Turks not to undertake any “unforced or unnecessary fighting” or else they would face measures against their economy and currency.
Donald Trump has put U.S. military forces in Syria at risk, and has allied himself with an autocratic dictator who is hellbent on the genocide of the Kurds, a strong U.S. ally. The war crimes atrocities have already begun. And the ISIS prisoners escaping from prison will lead to the rebirth of ISIS. Donald Trump is the now the founder of the rebirth of ISIS. He own this nightmare. Blood is on his hands.