Mar 19, 2018

Turkey claims control of Syria's Afrin as U.S. expresses "deep concern"

Turkish forces pose for a photo in Afrin after seizing control. Photo: OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images

Two months into an offensive in northwest Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey is in “total control” of the key city of Afrin, per the Washington Post. The State Department has issued a statement saying the U.S. is “deeply concerned” over reports from the city:

“It appears the majority of the population of the city, which is predominantly Kurdish, evacuated under threat of attack from Turkish military forces and Turkish backed opposition forces. This adds to the already concerning humanitarian situation in the area, with United Nations agencies reporting a displaced population in or from Afrin district in the hundreds of thousands, who now require immediate shelter and other assistance to meet basic needs. We are also concerned over reports of looting inside the city of Afrin.”
— From the State Dept. Statement

The big picture:

  • In addition to a potential humanitarian crisis, this appears to be a major setback for Syrian Kurdish efforts to build greater autonomy, and eventually a Kurdish state.
  • It’s being proclaimed as a big victory by Turkey, which considers the Kurdish YPG militia, which controlled Afrin, a terrorist group.
  • It underlines the increasingly fraught relationship between Turkey and NATO allies like the U.S., for whom the Syrian Kurds have been a crucial ally against ISIS.

What's next: A Kurdish official told the Post the YPG withdrew “to begin a new stage of resistance.” She said: “Our military forces will continue to fight, but there are large numbers of civilians in need of urgent help.” Another official said the YPG would wage a guerrilla war.

Go deeper

Sanders hits new stratosphere of online interest

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios — Note: Hover over the weekly rank on desktop to see articles and interactions for each candidate and issues.

For the second straight week, Bernie Sanders has hit the high watermark for online attention in the Democratic primary, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: It's not just quantity. The sentiment of the top stories about Sanders has been more positive than his top Democratic rivals — particularly Michael Bloomberg, whose recent online attention has been overwhelmingly negative.

Global coronavirus cases spread as U.S. soldier tests positive in South Korea

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

A 23-year-old American soldier stationed at Camp Carroll in South Korea has tested positive to the novel coronavirus, as the outbreak spreads to more countries.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 81,000 others. By Wednesday morning, South Korea had the most cases outside China, with 1,146 infections. Europe's biggest outbreak is in Italy, where 322 cases have been confirmed.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health

In photos: How coronavirus is impacting cities around the world

Revellers take part in the "Plague Doctors Procession" in Venice on Tuesday night during the usual period of the Carnival festivities, most of which have been cancelled following the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy. Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP via Getty Images

The novel coronavirus has spread from China to infect people in more than 40 countries and territories around the world, killing over 2,700 people.

The big picture: Most of the 80,000 COVID-19 infections have occurred in mainland China. But cases are starting to surge elsewhere. By Wednesday morning, the worst affected countries outside China were South Korea (1,146), where a U.S. soldier tested positive to the virus, Italy (332), Japan (170), Iran (95) and Singapore (91). Just Tuesday, new cases were confirmed in Switzerland, Croatia and Algeria.

See photosArrow4 hours ago - World