It’s a dirty old war. The city of Afrin, supposedly threatened with cataclysmic assault by the Turkish army, is open as usual, its shops doing apparently good business, its restaurants welcoming customers, its taxis lined up for customers, its Kurdish fighters manning the occasional checkpoint with weary obedience.
As for the Russians who, we have been told by news agencies and many others, have left – well, they are still here, at least during the day. I myself watched a Russian armoured personnel carrier – marked “military police” in Russian and Arabic but with the two-headed Russian eagle on the front – negotiate the checkpoint from the Syrian military line on the edge of Aleppo province into the Kurdish controlled Syrian province of Afrin.
Now you see them, now you don’t. “They pulled out of their big base when they said they did,” a YPG official – the YPG is the people’s “protection force” without much means to protect anyone, or so it would seem – told me rather slyly. “But they pay us visits during the day.”