Fog of 'Operation Olive Branch' War
In case you weren't confused enough reading about the contradictions between stated U.S. support for the Kurds and realpolitik, at least some 'Free Syrian Army' (FSA) units have defected from their comrades on the Turks side and joined the YPG's side:
Two U.S. volunteers for the YPG have reportedly been killed in fighting, and both pro-Turkish and YPG social media claimed a member of the U.S. special forces had died alongside the Kurds. But these accounts used an image of actor Bradley Cooper playing the late American Sniper Chris Kyle, and CNN Turk (in what may have been an inside job of anti-Erdogan sabotage, similar to the ridiculous fakes that editors failed to keep off Russian TV programs that were likely the handiwork of young anti-Putin journalists) ran with the image. With a curious fog of war settling over operations even in the Internet and smartphone filming age, the information war -- including the protests by Kurds around the world sometimes met by angry Turks -- appears to be taking precedence over the actual combat.
Both sides are throwing out casualty figures, but there seem to be few non or less partisan journalist observers on the ground in Afrin. The Turks claim to have killed 394 members of ISIS and the YPG in the operation, when Daesh was not known to have any presence around Afrin, is not credible. YPG Internet outlets have presented graphic footage of dead Turkish special forces numbering in the single digits, while scores of pro-Turkish FSA fighters are likely dead.
SDF Under U.S. Direction Blamed Russia for Turkish Offensive, But Wiser Kurdish Leaders Know the Score: Uncle Sam Hung the Iraqi Kurds in Kirkuk Out to Dry
What we can surmise however, is that certain actions are speaking louder than words. Starting with the Russians pulling their military police out of the area and Syrian/Russian SAMs standing down ahead of the Turkish combined arms offensive, but then with the Americans also doing nothing to stop the Turks advance toward Afrin after the Coalition spokesman declared the area irrelevant to U.S. operations. Manbij however, seems to be a different story, though the realization that the Americans won't defend them from Turkish F16s (some of them flying from the same Incirlik Air Base where American aircraft supporting YPG operations are based) has led some YPG leaders to admit the Russians offered them a decent deal: hoist the Syrian Arab Republic flag, accept some units of the SAA in Afrin, and the Turks would stop attacking. Moreover, the Russians invited the Kurds to the peace talks in Sochi and no objections to a more federalized Syria, even if Damascus understandably resented signs Kurds were setting up their own state. Nonetheless, many Kurds are not only citing their slogan that "a Kurd's only ally is the mountains," but are also reconsidering their opposition to letting a limited number of Syrian government forces into their cities...if only to stop the Turks. Even though the outsized territory (nearly 24% of the Syrian landmass, much of it desert) and mineral rights the Kurds seized from ISIS compared to their prewar demographics make them likely to drive a hard bargain with Damascus, the 'olive branch' operation either by effect or design is nudging them in Assad's direction.
However, the illusion that the YPG can hold out without any air defenses against the Turks cautious but grinding offensive is not easily discarded. Sparing the civilian population from becoming refugees in neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan or government controlled areas of Syria, and especially from atrocities pro-Turkish FSA units intent on revenge for YPG assistance with the SAA's Aleppo operations may commit, could prove the decisive factor. As will the ever lingering economic ties that bind the Syrian Kurds with Assad-government held Syria, namely oil and gas. The Russians have offered the Kurds money to develop the hydrocarbon fields they control in return for paying taxes on the revenue to Damascus, but delusions of American protection aka Americans risking 'blood for oil' die hard. Still, as Elijah J. Magnier reports, the ideal outcome for Washington may be for the Turks to suffer painful losses at YPG hands, with neither side able to achieve a decisive outcome and the YPG refusing reconciliation with Damascus. In other words, the Empire of Chaos thriving on chaos rather than peace:
Germany Suspends Upgrading of Turkey's Leopard II Tank Fleet As Berlin-Ankara Ties Further Frayed by Turkish Invasion of Kurdish Syria
With Germany at least temporarily halting anti-IED and active protection system upgrades to Turkey's fleet of Leopard II main battle tanks, some of which have reportedly taken hits from Russian made Konkurs anti-tank missiles in YPG hands, Ankara's offensive is spreading cracks through NATO. The Germans in particular must not only be concerned about the open pro-Erdogan demonstrations in their cities, but also their large Kurdish community and preventing clashes between the two Diasporas, or displays of pro-Turkish and anti-Kurd sentiment among the Syrian Arab migrants Chancellor Angela Merkel let into the country. As Berlin goes in Merkel's increasing coolness towards the Turks dating back to the failed coup against Erdogan, which resulted in numerous Turkish officers being recalled from NATO bases back home to be arrested and court martialed, so goes the rest of the EU. As German analyst 'b' of Moon of Alabama blog writes:
The None Too Subtle Strava 'Fitbit' Dump and the Geolocation of (Much More Vulnerable Then They Seem) American Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) in Syria
The standoff between the Turks and Americans has yet to be publically resolved, though rumors continue to fly of Tillerson and his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu having made a deal on the so-called 'safe zone' of occupation inside sovereign Syrian territory. As of Sunday January 28 CENTCOM and the Pentagon are giving no indication of an imminent pullout from Manbij. Indeed, a curiously timed data dump from social media fitness tracker Strava, which appears to have been an ingenious tool for spying on military men's Fitbits, revealed the location of multiple U.S. bases across Syria. Fitbits are also apparently being used by Turkish soldiers operating inside Syria, though that may be a falsified part of the oddly timed open source psyop package.
The message of the Strava dump if it came from the Americans intended for all -- Russians, Turks, Iranians and Damascus -- was like the big junk yard dog strutting with his cojones in the air, "We're in Syria to stay and whatcha going to do about it?" The answer, as we've grimly warned here in our SITREPs citing experienced Mideast reporters like Elijah J. Magnier, is likely to come out of the Iraqi insurgency playbook, both Sunni and Shi'a -- lots of IEDs. An alternative and more chilling possibility is that globalists standing above and outside of all the regional players intended the Strava OSINT message for DoD, regarding the vulnerability of U.S. troop positions to the same kind of 'homegrown' drone bombing or GPS aided shelling that many neocons had gloated about after a swarm of 'DIY' drones attacked Russia's Kheimmim air base earlier this month. In other words, a war of all against all, with ISIS overt terrorist army replaced by increasingly ingenious covert attacks using means like GPS guided munition dropping drones, previously considered beyond the capabilities of 85-90 IQ jihadis hiding in the Syraqi border desert.
The Kurdish areas of Syria are not as hospitable nor lacking in agents of Hezbollah as they seem. And if you add to this previous reporting that pro-Turkish Syrian jihadis have exchanged fire with American soldiers, to the embarrassed silence of the 'moderate rebels' neocon supporters on Capitol Hill, then it's clear Damascus, Ankara and Tehran combined have plenty of means to pressure the Americans. If President Trump is truly collectively served by wise advisers like 'Q Anon', then surely they must see the danger of The Donald being set up by globalists and aggressive Cold War 2 enthusiasts (H.R. McMaster and Mattis) in his Administration for playing the role of Dubya 2.0 in the bloody sands of Syria instead of Iraq...and tell the President to pull the troops out.
UPDATE 5:35 p.m. EST January 28, 2018 The Washington Post is reporting on the security implications of the Strava heat map, attributing its going viral online to an Australian student interested in the Syria conflict: