JERUSALEM, Israel – Turkish troops captured the Syrian city of Afrin near the Turkish border Sunday, marking the end of a two-month battle. While Turkey's victory may seem minor, many believe it was a pivotal battle with major implications for the United States and Israel.
When Turkish soldiers raised their flag in the center of Afrin,Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who made capturing Afrin a major goal, celebrated the moment.
"The Turkish Armed Forces have established total control in Afrin's city center," Erdogan announced. "Most of the terrorists had already turned tail and run away."
The "terrorists" Erdogan referred to were Kurdish forces who fought alongside the United States in the battle against ISIS.
Middle East expert Dr. Jonathan Spyer, director of the Rubin Center at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and a fellow at the Middle East Forum, spoke with CBN News about the battle for Afrin.
"From a strategic point of view, the Kurds of Syria have been the West's most faithful and indeed most effective allies in the course of the fighting against the Islamic State in the past three to four years," Spyer said. "And now there's a very strong sense among the Kurds that they have effectively been betrayed by their Western friends and partners."
Yet these Kurds promised to fight on and said their war against Turkey had entered a new phase.
The battle saw the Turkish army fighting alongside Islamist groups, some of them al Qaeda militias. Some reportedly threatened the Kurds to either convert or die.
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Near the end of the Turkish campaign, a video was sent out as evidence of indiscriminate bombing against civilians. Churches in the area pleaded for help and prayer, while a UN representative warned of ethnic cleansing. At least 150,000 Kurds have now fled the area.
Yet Erdogan mocked the European Union and dismissed attempts by the West to stop the offensive against Afrin.
"There's nothing the European Parliament can say to Turkey. And whatever they say goes in one ear and comes out from the other," Erdogan said.
"This is yet further indication of the extent to which Turkey is moving away from its former role as a reliable Western ally and as a NATO member in good standing and more and more a sense that Turkey is a state deeply tinged with Islamist ideology," Spyer said.