The Turkish military on Saturday announced it launched Operation Olive Branch in Syria's Afrin region. The northwestern city is under the control of a US backed Kurdish group that Turkey says is an extension of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist group by both Turkey and the U.S.
The Associated Press reports that the Turkish military bombed areas of the city held by a militia of Syrian Kurdish fighters allied with U.S backed coalition forces in the ware against ISIS.
“We are taking these steps to ensure our own national security, as well as of our 13 million Syrian brothers and sisters, who are displaced,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the state-run Anadolu news agency.
The Turkish General released a statement on its website that says the objective of the mission is to “establish security and stability on our borders and region" and to “save our friends and brothers” from the "oppression and cruelty of terrorist groups."
The Turkish government says the military operation only targets "terrorists and their shelters, weapons and material belonging to them," and that "no civilian or innocent person would be harmed."
A Turkish military leader told NATO leaders in Brussels this week that Turkey would not allow coalition forces to continue arming the YPG.
“We cannot and will not allow support and arming of the YPG terror group under the name of an operational partner. We hope this mistake will be corrected in the shortest time,” armed forces chief of staff Hulusi Akar said.
There are roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in northern Syria.
The U.S. Defense Department released a statement in response that U.S.-led coalition was not involved in the operation and its focus was still on the fight against ISIS.
"We understand Turkey's security concerns regarding the PKK, which is recognized as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S.," Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said. "We invite all parties voltage to focus on overcoming Dease avoidance and the most important job than escalate. Turkey 's we understand the security concerns of the PKK on recognized as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States. A continuing operations in Afrin the US-led coalition in because it is focused on military operations targeting DEAS, "he added
Earlier this week, Syria’s government threatened to shoot down Turkish jets if they attacked Syrian territory.