Abdulkadir Selvi, a staunchly pro-government columnist with the Hürriyet daily, wrote on Monday that Turkey rejected an American offer of the involvement of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces in a likely operation targeting Raqqa, the so-called capital of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Selvi, known for the tipoffs he receives from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, said that when the Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar met with his American counterpart, Joseph Dunford, on Feb. 17, Turkey rejected an American offer for a YPG offensive on Raqqa from the north.
According to Selvi, the status of the YPG is the critical point in a possible operation against Raqqa. He also stated that the YPG is a “red line” for Turkey while the US supports the Kurdish forces.
Hinting at a likely offensive in Raqqa, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Feb. 12 that after taking control of al-Bab, Turkish troops and Free Syrian Army forces will continue on to Manbij and Raqqa in northern Syria.
“We have been trying to cleanse the region of terrorists. Al-Bab is almost finished. Manbij and Raqqa are next. Al-Bab is not our final target. Our final target is to clear the region of Daesh [ISIL]. The real center of Daesh is Raqqa,” Erdoğan said during a press conference at Istanbul Atatürk Airport before departing for a trip to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Erdoğan said Turkish troops and Syrian rebel allies have entered the ISIL-held al-Bab, adding that its capture was “just a matter of time.”
Manbij is under the control of YPG forces, while Raqqa is in ISIL territory.
“Our target is to create a four to five thousand-square-kilometer terrorist-free zone. By creating a safe area we want to stop the flow of refugees and asylum seekers, and by establishing settlement areas we want to return people living in camps in Turkey to their land,” added Erdoğan, stating that he has already shared Turkey’s plan to establish new cities in the area with US President Donald Trump and other coalition forces including Germany.
With the death of another soldier earlier in February, Turkey has lost 72 troops since the beginning of Operation Euphrates Shield on Aug. 24 in northern Syria.