Turkey to begin Syria offensive 'shortly' despite mixed US signals

Turkey to begin Syria offensive 'shortly' despite mixed US signals

Critics fear the move will open the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led forces long allied with Washington who have led the fight against the Islamic State militant group in Syria.

Bloomberg reported Wednesday that Turkish forces had begun crossing into Syrian territory, citing a Turkish official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Kurdish authorities run more than two dozen detention facilities, scattered around northeastern Syria, holding about 10,000 IS fighters.

Trump rejected that interpretation, tweeting: "We may be in the process of leaving Syria, but in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters". On Monday, Erdogan said US troops had started to withdraw after a phone call he had with Trump, adding that talks between Turkish and USA officials on the matter would continue.

President Donald Trump's announcement that US troops in Syria would step aside to make way for a Turkish military operation against USA -allied Syrian Kurdish fighters unleashed a torrent of near unanimous criticism and warnings of immediate and long-term negative consequences.

Turkey says it wants to establish a "safe zone" on the Syrian side of the border where it could send back some of the 3.6 million refugees from the eight-year civil war. It went on to call on the global community and those countries fighting against ISIS "to carry out their responsibilities" to avoid a "possible impending humanitarian disaster".

The White House announced late Sunday night the withdrawal is occurring because "Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria" and the United States will not be involved.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces became the main US -backed force in Syria in the fight against IS.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said Tuesday that the Turkish Armed Forces is "the only coalition and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation army fighting the DAESH (ISIS) terrorist group in the Euphrates Shield Operation". Graham said on Twitter that "sanctions against Turkey - if necessary - would be veto-proof".

More news: New IMF chief warns trade conflicts fuel synchronized global slowdown
More news: Someone in Dublin is €500,000 richer after tonight's EuroMillions
More news: PG&E could shut off power to customers in dozens of counties

Meanwhile Turkey's defense ministry announced that preparations for the offensive have been "completed". "Kurds in Syria. should support the Syrian army", state news agency IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying.

The Kurds have always been considered as among Washington's most reliable partners in Syria and in the broader campaign against ISIS in the region.

Votel also called the USA partnership with the mainly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces "a model of how we should be protecting our interests", adding the SDF has been a "capable and trustworthy partner". In October, the U.S. began removing its troops from the area, with the White House indicating recently that it would not "support or be involved in" Turkey's planned operation.

"Threatening Turkey's economy is a diplomatic catastrophe", she told her party's lawmakers in a speech in parliament.

The United Nations and human rights groups are warning of grave humanitarian consequences while security analysts say a Turkish offensive could allow the Islamic State to re-emerge as a serious threat.

Ankara brands them terrorists due to their links to Kurdish militants who have waged a long insurgency in Turkey. "Our message to worldwide community is clear. The main security threat against Turkey is the PKK". The decision drew criticism from Democrats and a rebuke from some of Mr Trump's fellow Republicans in Congress.

And Sen. Lindsey Graham of SC, a close national security adviser of Mr. Trump's, blasted what he called "the impulsive decision by the president" as "shortsighted and irresponsible". Trump said reiterating that America's support to the Kurds is not going away.

"It's a huge area for the Turkish military to go into and clearly there will be resistance on the part of the (Syrian Kurdish forces)", said Bulent Aliriza, of the director of the Turkey Project at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

CNN's Samantha Beech, Sharif Paget, Isil Sariyuce, Jennifer Hansler, Alex Rogers and Ryan Browne contributed reporting.

Related Articles