After a bloody, two month cross-border campaign of Turkish forces to dislodge Kurdish YPG “terrorists” from the Syrian city of Afrin, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared complete victory on Sunday as Turkish and allied FSA flags have been raised for the first time over Afrin’s city center.
Kurdish YPG forces (or “People’s Protection Units”) were widely reported to have withdrawn before pro-Turkish forces entered the city before dawn on Sunday, allowing invading forces to secure the city while facing no resistance. In a televised speech Erdogan claimed to have “saved” the city through the “heroic” actions of his military while also framing the operation which took place entirely on Syrian soil as humanitarian in nature. He said, “This operation has shown the whole world that Turkey sides with the oppressed,” as reported by Rudaw.
Kurdish authorities of Afrin canton, for the their part, condemned Russia for allowing Turkey to use airspace to dislodge Kurdish protection units. At a Kurdish press conference, an Afrin canton official leveled the charge that “Russia actively participated in opening airspace for Turkey to ‘exterminate our people with all kinds of weapons and sacrificed our people for their interests in Syria, and under international silence, of the coalition, and EU'”. The spokesperson added that, “We decided to remove civilians from the city to avoid a more terrible humanitarian catastrophe.”
Erdogan also appears to have taunted the retreating Kurdish forces, saying that a “large number” of Kurdish fighters had “fled with their tails between their legs,” and added that Turkish special forces have been deployed in the city, with demining operations also underway. “Now the Turkish flag will fly over there! The flag of the Free Syrian Army will fly over there!” said Erdogan.