HASSA, Turkey - Turkish troops and Syrian opposition forces attacked a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria on Sunday in their bid to oust from the area a USA -allied Kurdish militia, which responded with a hail of rockets on Turkish towns, killing at least one refugee.
The Kurdish militia, which forms the backbone of the USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces, now controls almost 25 percent of Syrian territory.
"There are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF's inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000", said Colonel Thomas F Veale, public affairs officer of the CJTF-OIR.
The Manbij and Afrin region are controlled by the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units popularly known as YPG, which Ankara considers an affiliate of the PKK.
"Some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all", he said aboard his aircraft taking him back to Washington from Canada, where he hosted a meeting on North Korea.
Syria's air force suffered a number of plane and helicopter losses in the government's war on opposition areas inside the country and the Islamic State. The SDF includes various Kurdish, Syriac, Arab and other minority militias within its ranks.
The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad responded on Monday by vowing to crush the new force and drive United States troops from the country.
Erdogan has threatened an imminent military operation to "purge terror" from near its borders. Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad said a military incursion into Afrin would be "no picnic" for Turkey and would be considered an "aggressive act". "And we should take steps carefully", he said.
Tillerson Says US Has No Intention To Build Border Force In Syria
The SDF has always been supported by a US-led coallition.
"It calls on the Turkish authorities to act with restraint in a hard context where the humanitarian situation is deteriorating in several regions of Syria as a result of the military operations carried out there by the regime of Damascus and its allies", the Ministry said in a statement.
"Turkey expects its allies to support its fight against terrorism in all of its forms", he added, in comments that appeared aimed at Washington.
"The Olive Branch Operation is going on as planned, and the ground operation has started", the Turkish army, NATO's second-largest, said.
Afrin had already been threatened by Turkey a year ago, but that was a different time. "We are supporting our partners in defeating remaining ISIS pockets along the Middle Euphrates River Valley", Dillon was quoted as saying. Now, SDF operations are only supported in Deir ez-Zour, where they continue fighting the IS.
Thousands rallied against the attacks in the border town of Amuda in north-west Syria, vowing to stand against "Turkish occupation", according to a local witness.
Syria, Iran and Russian Federation have also come out against the planned border force, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday: "If Syrians could solve their own problems, it would be much better".More news: Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) Analysts See $0.71 EPS