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Erdogan vows to 'crush the heads of terrorists' if truce deal fails
ANKARA (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey would press on with its offensive into northeastern Syria and "crush the heads of terrorists" if a deal with Washington on the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the area were not fully implemented.
Erdogan agreed on Thursday in talks with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a five-day pause in the offensive to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a "safe zone" Turkey aims to establish in northeast Syria near the Turkish border.
On Saturday the fragile truce was holding along the border, with a few Turkish military vehicles crossing the border, Reuters journalists at the scene said. In the last 36 hours, there have been 14 "provocative attacks" from Syria, Turkey's defense ministry said, adding it was continuing to coordinate closely with Washington on implementation of the accord.
If the agreement with the United States, a NATO ally, falters, Turkey will continue its military operation from where it left off, Erdogan said.
"If it works, it works. If not, we will continue to crush the heads of the terrorists the minute the 120 hours (of the ceasefire) are over," Erdogan told flag-waving supporters in the central Turkish province of Kayseri.
"If the promises that were made to us are not kept, we will not wait like we did before and we will continue the operation where it left off once the time we set has run out," he said.
The surprise deal to suspend Turkey's military offensive in Syria hinged on Erdogan's demand that Washington agree on a time limit on any ceasefire, a senior Turkish official told Reuters on Friday.
The deal aims to stem a humanitarian crisis, which displaced 200,000 civilians in the region, and ease a security scare over thousands of Islamic State captives guarded by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia targeted by the Turkish assault.
Ankara regards the YPG, the main component of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish insurgents in southeast Turkey.
The planned safe zone would extend more than 30 km (20 miles) deep into Syria. Erdogan said on Friday it would run for some 440 km from west to east along the border, though the U.S. special envoy for Syria said the accord covered a smaller area where Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies were fighting.
Erdogan also said on Friday Turkey would set up a dozen observation posts across northeast Syria, and that he would hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on what steps to take in the planned "safe zone" next week.
EMERGENCY TALKS IN SOCHI
The truce also aimed to ease a crisis triggered by President Donald Trump's abrupt decision earlier this month to withdraw all 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria, a move criticized in Washington and elsewhere as a betrayal of loyal Kurdish allies who had fought for years alongside U.S. troops against Islamic State.
Trump defended his decision as "strategically brilliant" and said the truce reached with Turkey would save millions of lives. Trump later said he held a phone call with Erdogan and that the Turkish leader "very much wants the ceasefire, or pause, to work".
But Trump's move also means the extent of Turkey's ambitions in the region is likely to be determined by Russia and Iran, who both support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and look to fill the vacuum created by the U.S. retreat.
Assad has already deployed his forces in territory formerly protected by Washington, invited by the Kurds. Erdogan, who has backed rebels fighting to oust Assad, has said Turkey has no problem with Syrian government forces deploying near the border.
But Erdogan said on Saturday he would discuss the Syrian deployment in northern Syria in his planned talks with Putin during a visit to Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday.
"In certain parts of our operation area, (Assad) regime forces under Russian protection are situated. We will discuss this issue with Mr Putin. We need to find a solution," Erdogan said.
"But the same is valid there too. If it works, it works. If not, then we will continue to implement our own plans," he said, without elaborating.
While Erdogan and Putin have forged close ties over defense and energy cooperation, as well as efforts to find a political solution in Syria, Moscow has said the Turkish offensive into Syria was "unacceptable" and should be limited.
On Friday, Russian officials discussed with Assad in Damascus the need to de-escalate the situation in northeast Syria, Russia's foreign ministry said on Saturday.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Additional reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow; Editing by Gareth Jones)
‘Take what’s inside and get it outside’ — Air Force psychologist reminds airmen of mental health resources
Kirtland Air Force Base isn't much different from the world beyond its gates when it comes to dealing with mental illnesses, a base clinical psychologist says.
Maj. Benjamin Carter told the Journal the most frequent diagnosis on the base is an anxiety disorder.
"It's not a surprise, but I anticipate about anytime in the population in America, about 20% of the population has some form of diagnosable anxiety disorder, and it's no different in the military," he said.
Leading the way among the anxiety disorders, he said, were post-traumatic stress disorder "or something like panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder."
The DNA of a niece and nephew, who never met their uncle, has helped identify the remains of the Kansas Marine who died in WWII.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that 21-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Raymond Warren was identified using DNA and circumstantial evidence. Warren had been buried in a cemetery in the Gilbert Islands, where he was killed when U.S. forces tried to take secure one of the islands from the Japanese.
The Battle of Tarawa lasted from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23, 1943, and claimed the lives of 1,021 U.S. marines and sailors, more than 3,000 Japanese soldiers and an estimated 1,000 Korean laborers before the U.S. troops seized control, the agency said.
Arizona lawmakers are vowing to fight a plan by the Air Force to start retiring some of the nation's fleet of A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack jets — a major operation at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base — as part of a plan to drop some older, legacy weapon systems to help pay for new programs.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a former A-10 pilot, and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., both vowed to fight the move to retire 44 of the oldest A-10s starting this year.
During a press briefing last week, Air Force officials unveiled plans to start mothballing several older platforms, including retiring some A-10s even as it refits others with new wings.
MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un was filmed riding through the snow on a white stallion last year, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on 12 purebred horses from Russia, according to Russian customs data.
Accompanied by senior North Korean figures, Kim took two well-publicized rides on the snowy slopes of the sacred Paektu Mountain in October and December.
State media heralded the jaunts as important displays of strength in the face of international pressure and the photos of Kim astride a galloping white steed were seen around the world.
North Korea has a long history of buying pricey horses from Russia and customs data first reported by Seoul-based NK News suggests that North Korea may have bolstered its herd in October.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A high-profile local Taliban figure who announced and justified the 2012 attack on teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has escaped detention, Pakistan's interior minister confirmed a few days after the militant announced his breakout on social media.
Former Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, who claimed responsibility on behalf of his group for scores of Taliban attacks, proclaimed his escape on Twitter and then in an audio message sent to Pakistani media earlier this month.
The Pakistani military, which had kept Ehsan in detention for three years, has declined to comment but, asked by reporters about the report, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, said: "That is correct, that is correct."
Shah, a retired brigadier general, added that "you will hear good news" in response to questions about whether there had been progress in hunting down Ehsan.