“This morning at 8.30 a.m., Afrin city center was completely taken under control by F.S.A. members, who are supported by our Turkish military,” he said. “The majority of terrorists had already escaped, their tails between their legs.” Turkish special forces were assisting in clearing mines and weaponry left behind, he added.
The operation was a turnabout for the Syrian fighters, who had originally taken up arms to fight their government and are now fighting Syrian Kurds who had sought a measure of autonomy in Syria. Turkey, one of the main backers of Syrian rebels, has shifted its focus to preventing the Y.P.G., which it considers a terrorist organization, from establishing a foothold along its border. It has enlisted rebels, including some displaced from their homes by the Y.P.G.
The events have fueled fierce controversy among Syrian opposition activists, with some saying that Syrian rebels were working for Turkey against other Syrians. Even some members of the Turkish-backed rebel force expressed ambivalence, with one fighter saying on the eve of the battle that the revolution had gone off course.
But others argue that Turkish protection is the best bet for establishing areas free of government control and bombing.
The Turkish military released footage of a soldier hanging a Turkish flag from the first-floor balcony of the governor’s office in Afrin, as a fighter next to him waved a Syrian opposition flag.
Mr. Erdogan vowed to rebuild the region to allow citizens to return.
“We will take all kinds of steps for people of the region currently living in our country and other places to turn back to their homeland, houses as soon as possible,” he said.
The process appeared to be underway in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep on Sunday as Syrian opposition leaders and activists from Afrin gathered in a hotel to select council members to run an administration in the city, including policing arrangements.
Arabs, Kurds and other minorities, including Yazidis, Alawites and a Christian from Afrin, took part in the council meeting, which was closed to the news media. Many had taken refuge in Turkey in recent years because of their opposition to the Y.P.G., and 15 people had also traveled out from Afrin for the meeting, organizers said.
Turkish officials will post Turkish troops and Free Syrian Army fighters to secure the wider region but intend to leave the internal security of the city to the local police, according to the Kurdish politician who organized the meeting, Abdolaziz Tammo, head of the Syrian Kurds Independent Association.
Mr. Tammo has been campaigning for Syria’s Kurds to break free of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., and its affiliate, the Y.P.G.
Mr. Tammo said he blamed the Syrian government and the P.K.K. for collaborating in the assassination of his politician brother, Michel Tammo, in 2012.
“This is a liberation,” Mr. Tammo said of the departure of the Kurdish militias from Afrin. “They took control by force of arms and forced the people to live under their rule,” he said.
Continue reading the main story