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Turkish soldiers are seen on the military vehicles as they move towards to Syrian border as part of the 'Operation Olive Branch.' Photo: Burak Milli/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Turkish military offensive to remove Kurdish forces from the Afrin enclave near the Turkish border in northern Syria has entered its third day, with Turkish media reporting several villages have been captured, per the BBC. U.S. officials haven’t condemned the offensive, but are urging “restraint.”

Why it matters: Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG militia to be a terrorist group, and has long feared its growing influence across the border in Syria, but the group is a critical ally for the U.S. against ISIS and led the campaign to retake Raqqa. The struggle is likely to endanger civilian lives, and could lead to a longer-term tussle for control.

What they’re saying
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Turkey will not “step back,” and has an agreement with the Russians to continue the offensive, which he expects to be quick and decisive, per the BBC.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: "We've asked them to just, try to be precise, try to limit your operation, try to show some restraint," per Buzzfeed's John Hudson.
  • Defense Secretary James Mattis: "They warned us before they launched the aircraft they were going to do it, in consultation with us. And we are working now on the way ahead. We'll work this out,” per the BBC.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: The U.S. has been "discouraging the Kurds from dialogue" with the Syrian government and sowing “separatist sentiment,” per the BBC.
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: “The brutal Turkish aggression" is part of Turkey’s "support for terrorism" in Syria, per the BBC.

The latest: Tillerson said the U.S. and Turkey are discussing potentially establishing a secure zone near the border, per the AP.

Go deeper

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters rallied outside fortified statehouses over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

  • The pardons set to be issued before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice ones and pardons for people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.