Turkey’s offensive in northeastern Syria has begun, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday, just days after the Trump administration announced it was pulling US troops back from the border area.
“Our aim is to destroy the terror corridor which is trying to be established on our southern border and to bring peace and peace to the region,” Erdogan tweeted.
He added that Turkey “will preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists.”
The start of the operation to move US-backed Kurdish forces away from its border came hours after Turkish government communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said the country’s military was set to cross into Syria along with the rebel Free Syrian Army.
The offensive comes days after US President Donald Trump provoked a storm of criticism, including within his own party, by announcing that US troops would be pulled back from the border area.
Trump’s decision effectively provided Turkish troops with a green light to attack US-backed Kurdish forces, though Trump threatened to punish Turkey economically if it does “anything outside of what we think is humane.”
Ankara regards the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, also known as the YPG, as a terrorist group affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought the Turkish state for more than three decades. But the US backs the YPG and credits the Kurds for helping defeat ISIS in Syria.
In a tweet early Wednesday, the Turkish government communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said the YPG had two options: “They can defect or we will have stop them from disrupting our counter-ISIS efforts.”
Ahead of the offensive Wednesday Syria condemned Turkey’s “aggressive behavior” and “hostile intentions,” according to Syrian state news agency SANA. “The aggressive behavior of the Erdogan regime clearly shows the Turkish expansionist ambitions in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic and cannot be justified under any pretext,” a source at the Foreign Ministry said, SANA reported.
A source at the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that the Syrian government holds some Kurds responsible for what is happening “as a result of their dependence on the American project.”
Story first appeared on CNN website