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Turkey extends military mandate in Syria by one year

Turkey-backed FSA members in the Syrian town of Jarablus, September 23 [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 October, 2016

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The bill, which also approves the deployment of Turkish army military personnel in Iraq, was passed by a large majority in Turkey's parliament on Saturday.
Turkey’s parliament approved a one-year extension to an existing mandate to deploy Turkish army personnel in Syria and Iraq.

Saturday's proposed bill passed by a large majority with support from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), secular opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – with only the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) voting against it.

The extension of the mandate – originally approved by parliament in October 2014 and first extended in September 2015 – permits Turkish military action against the Islamic State and other groups deemed by Ankara to be terrorists such as the Syrian Kurdish political group the Popular Protection Units (YPG) which has close relations with the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The YPG has risen to assert autonomy in Kurdish cantons of Syria over the course of the country’s civil war and Ankara has targeted its units in cross-border artillery strikes, receiving reprimands from Washington in the process.

On August 24, Turkey launched a previously unprecedented military operation inside northern Syria. Operation "Euphrates Shield" has seen the Turkish military target both IS and the YPG.

Speaking at the opening of Saturday’s parliament session Erdogan lauded Turkey’s military intervention in the Syrian town of Jarablus, formerly controlled by IS, claiming that since militants from the extremist group were forced to flee from the area, the town’s population had expanded from 2,000 to 40,000. 

Currently, Turkish and Free Syrian Army units forces are said to have advanced further into Syria and are now positioned outside the town of Manbij located approximately 80 km north-east of Aleppo.

The city was recently taken from IS by the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Syrian Arabs and Kurds that has previously been described as "a subsidiary of the YPG".

While the United States view the Kurds as partners in the fight against IS, Erdogan has heavily criticised the Obama administration’s support for the YPG stating "if you think you can finish off Daesh [IS] with the YPG then you cannot do so" while also slamming Washington’s provision of arms to such groups.

Outside Syria, in Iraq, Ankara is also said to have troops in the Bashiqa camp close to the IS-controlled city of Mosul with Turkish officers involved in training local Iraqi fighters ahead of a scheduled plan to retake the city. 

Anadolu news agency reported on Saturday that the mandate extension is set to run until October 30 2017.

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