During the deadliest day of the Turkish military’s Operation Olive Branch, Turkey has lost eleven soldiers to the Kurdish YPG’s combat prowess this past Saturday. The operation began last month in an effort to capture the territories of Afrin and Manbij from Kurdish occupation but has yielded little results other than mounting casualties on both sides and a civilian populace caught in the cross fire. Along with the confirmed deaths, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, informed the public that a helicopter was shot down and a tank was destroyed by the Kurds. To date, the Turkish military has admitted to a total of 25 casualties on their side during military operations as of Saturday. The civilian casualty count has been placed at 70 deaths by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights but health officials local to Afrin have claimed near 160. SOHR estimates around 135 Kurdish fighters have been killed since the start as well.
Turkey has heavily focused its efforts on the Kurdish controlled region surrounding Afrin but is utilizing its proxy force, the Free Syrian Army, to attack Manbij and other neighboring villages. The FSA, and Turkey for employing them, have recently come under fire from the international community for the desecration of a female YPJ fighters body. Video of the dead fighter emerged earlier this month which showed a group of FSA fighters standing of her body; her breasts and genitals appeared to have suffered massive lacerations postmortem. This is just one instance of reported war crimes committed by individuals within the group. The FSA started as a United States government proxy force during the Libyan revolution and eventually, after the defeat of the Islamic State in Raqqa, fell from U.S. support.
The Turkish have long been at war with the Syrian Kurds and the conflict in Afrin is at a stand off because neither side will give up easily. The United States has remained loyal to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) but will not get physically involved due to Turkey’s NATO status. The U.S. along with other NATO allies have attempted to dissuade President Erdogan’s efforts to capture Afrin but their words have yielded little in the way of results to date. Time will tell what will come of the newest in a long list of conflicts to envelope the factions residing within Syria.