US intelligence chief criticizes Turkey's Afrin op

Director of National Intelligence says Turkey's Operation Olive Branch 'increases' risk to US forces in the region

By Merve Aydogan

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats expressed concern Tuesday over Turkey's ongoing military operation in Syria.

Speaking at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats, Coats commented on Turkey's counter-terrorism operations in Syria's northwestern Afrin province, saying Operation Olive Branch "increases" risk to the U.S. forces in the area.

He said Turkey will seek to thwart "Kurdish ambitions" in the Middle East and claimed its current operation is "complicating" ongoing counter-Daesh activities in the region.

Turkey on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey's borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from terrorist cruelty and oppression.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN Charter and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

The military has also said that only terrorist targets are being destroyed and "utmost care" is being taken to avoid harming any civilians.

Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012, when Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime left the city to the terror group without a fight.

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