The Fan is Getting Hit in Afrin/Manbij


Content Warning: War, Death

The Turkish move into Kurdish-controlled Syria near Manbij has not been entirely successful. The only surprise is that anyone is surprised.

Competing claims frame the move as a Turkish attempt to annex the area, or simply to pacify it. Pacification makes no sense, though – are we expected to believe that Turkey will move in, hang around, and then leave after a couple of years?

Naturally, civilians are already being killed. The Turks are using their US-provided F-16s in ground-attack roles to area-bomb the city of Afrin. Depending on who you want to believe, several hundred civilians, or terrorists, have been killed. So far the city looks somewhat intact; how long will that last? One of the reasons Afrin looks pretty well-preserved is because ISIL never took it over; so the story about it being occupied by “terrorists” is not true; it’s occupied by Kurds.

I want to place some of the blame for their deaths squarely on the US, which has consistently served as an example that you can area-bomb cities with impunity as long as you are willing to blame the victims for being bad people. By demonstrating that superior powers can ignore international law, the US has helped lower the bar, significantly, on violence world-wide.

Turkey has also learned the trick from the US of using Orwellian names for military operations: this incursion is “Operation Olive Branch.”

The US’ incompetent State Department dropped a comment about building a US-backed Kurdish defense line in the area, which (naturally) prompted angry responses from Turkey. Shortly after that, videos began surfacing of Kurdish forces destroying Turkish tanks using anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM).

It’s hard to find these videos since they appear and disappear from youtube fairly quickly. It appears that various governments are exercising a privilege of taking them down, especially when they show what may be war crimes (as in the video of the Turkish planes area-bombing a civilian target). The tank getting hit appears to be a German-made Leopard II (but I can’t be sure) – the Germans are supposedly very unhappy that their tanks are being used in a war of aggression, and that they are not holding up very well. I have to call “bullshit” on the first point – what the hell else did the Germans think they were selling tanks to Turkey for? Ottoman Disney?

From the sound of it, the ATGM is a Russian-made Kornet. The Turkish tank was not even maneuvering; it was sitting there behind no cover, flank exposed, with high ground from which a dropping shot could be launched. That’s extremely incompetent tank-driving – as we’ve seen before, just having a semi high-tech tank does not guarantee one a safe sojourn on the battlefield. [stderr] I’m afraid that what we’re seeing here is a military that is used to suppressing civilians and has no idea whatsoever how to fight an appropriately armed opponent.

Kornets are pretty easy to get if you have a nation-state behind you, and a nation-state’s bankroll. I have to wonder if the CIA or one of the other proxy powers in the region gave those Kornets to the Kurds as a way of helping them bloody the Turks’ noses. That, by the way – arming proxy forces – is something that the Russians refrained from doing in Iraq and Syria (so far) although there have been rumors of Russian weapons turning up in Afghanistan. [guardian]

The situation is about to get shittier. Politicians’ only response to this sort of thing is to ante up and not back down, to throw more shit at the fan and see whether it sticks.

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The Kurds are claiming 5 tanks. The Turks are claiming about a dozen casualties. I assume everyone is lying in some direction or another.

In the news this morning were reports of a Russian Su-25 Frogfoot being shot down near Idlib in Syria. The aircraft was launching ordnance when it was hit with a man portable air defense missile (MANPAD) probably something like the Chinese-made FN-6es that are turning up with increasing frequency in the area. There is video of the shoot-down here [avi] it’s interesting to see how far up and away aircraft are when they are doing “close support”; it’s “close” but most of our ideas of what close support resembles come from WWII footage. Most of today’s close support is more like area bombing.

The pilot successfully ejected but landed in an area occupied by the Al-Nusra Front (Al Quaeda in Syria) and was killed in a brief gunfight.

Comments

  1. Dunc says

    One of the reasons Afrin looks pretty well-preserved is because ISIL never took it over; so the story about it being occupied by “terrorists” is not true; it’s occupied by Kurds.

    As far as Turkey’s concerned, the Kurds are “terrorists”.

  2. says

    Dunc@#1:
    As far as Turkey’s concerned, the Kurds are “terrorists”.

    I hate the way that that word has come to mean “whoever we want to blow up.”

    It’s very hard to pick apart all the agendas, so usually I fall on the side of “stop shooting!” and am less supportive of whoever is doing the most shooting and killing. Which, in this case, means I wish the Turks would pull back and stop bombing people. I don’t know if the Turks are in the right or not, or even if there is a right (I suspect there is not).

    This article was helpful to me https://consortiumnews.com/2018/02/05/pawns-in-the-game-a-brief-history-of-america-and-the-kurds/ with some backfill about the US relationship with the Kurds. As you’d expect, it’s horrible. I don’t know how accurate any of it is, though (except that it appears to contain a lot of historical facts)

  3. says

    Turkey’S got a long history of horrible human rights violations of the Kurds and this has not become better under Erdogan the Great. And yes, in Turkey everybody expressing at least some amount of sympathy with the Kurds is treated as a terrorist, including journalists like Deniz Yücel.

  4. komarov says

    A day or two ago suddenly articles cropped up in several places about “the worst day yet” for the Turks with… five casualites – a tank crew – plus another two in preivous days. Somewhere lower down some would mention the other side’s casualties being, I think, 900 or so. Unverified and they could have been fighters, civilians, terrorists or possibly buccaneers who’d gotten really lost, who knows? The only thing I could think of was “Fuck off!”

    Turkey lost 7 pawns they don’t give a shit about and some expensive hardware which they probably feel much worse about in a war they started. Fuck off indeed. It says a lot about the kind of wars going on these days if the loss of a single vehicle plus crew is deemed newsworthy while the massive power imbalance (expressed in casualties) and war crimes against civilians are reduced to a by-line, if they’re mentioned at all. I brace myself for the future of war reporting: “Solitary bullet fired at brave [nationality] liberators after advancing 3000 miles into enemy territory.*”

    (“Assault Liberation campaign grinds to a halt as forty-six villages carpet bombed in reponse and more than 60,000 terrorists of all ages detained and/or killed. Military leaders shocked and confused, quoted saying, ‘They have weapons, too?!'”)

  5. kurt1 says

    I absolutely despise the reaction of my (german) government, the middle east policies are pure inhumane garbage. And it’s very little in our media. Mostly stuff about refugees, but who knows why they come here. must be because they turned their country into a shithole or something. The press secretary just said, when asked about afrin something along the lines of ” we see what we will do about that, when we have all the facts”, which of course is never.
    But hey, they announced to stop weapons deals with all parties involved in the yemen conflict. But they don’t have and or want to publish a list of countries that would entail. However they do continue to deliver weapons to the USA, because apparently the states are not involved.
    It’s just such a horrible, cowardly stance. Infuriating.

  6. says

    komarov@#4:
    It says a lot about the kind of wars going on these days if the loss of a single vehicle plus crew is deemed newsworthy while the massive power imbalance (expressed in casualties) and war crimes against civilians are reduced to a by-line

    It does indeed. I remember when the US was doing “thunder runs” through Baghdad, basically shooting anyone that moved, and were upset that they had one M-1’s engine burned up. It was disgraceful – here were state-of-the-art tanks running through a city full of civilians who did not at all expect them to appear there and machine-gunning anyone who got close because “fedayeen saddam” — we lowered the bar down to near the ground; the Turks are just using the “US” setting.

  7. says

    kurt1@#5:
    However they do continue to deliver weapons to the USA, because apparently the states are not involved.

    Ah, yes, the new H&K rifles for the Marines (among other things). It must have galled the hell out of the fine engineers at H&K to have to make something based on a crappy AR-15-style action; they know how to do better but Americans love their crappy V-twin engines, garbage 1911 .45s and bletcherous AR-15s.

    Germany should not be selling the US weapons. The US is, in fact, involved in the Yemen conflict. There are special forces all over the place, US drones all over the place, and the US is delivering millions of gallons of fuel to the Saudi aircraft that are bombing civilians in Saana. [stderr]

    It’s just such a horrible, cowardly stance. Infuriating.

    Well said.

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