U.S. and Kurdish officials expect Turkey to launch a military operation within 24 hours as Trump tries to backpedal.
Turkey Readies Major Attack on Northeast Syria
U.S. and Kurdish officials said late Tuesday that they expect Turkey to launch a major offensive into northeast Syria within the next 24 hours, after U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to give Ankara the green light to begin the operation.
The preparations come as the administration sought to backpedal on Trump’s surprise Sunday announcement, following a telephone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that he was ordering the withdrawal U.S. troops from the border with Turkey, paving the way for Ankara to move forward with a potentially devastating attack on America’s Kurdish allies.
State Department officials told Kurdish leaders on Tuesday that any Turkish attack would be met by harsh economic and political sanctions, Bassam Saker, the Syrian Democratic Council’s (SDC) representative to the United States, told Foreign Policy . The SDC is the political arm of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the mostly Kurdish militia responsible for liberating northeast Syria from the Islamic State.
But it appears Turkey has not been dissuaded by the threat of U.S. sanctions. Turkish officials informed the U.S. embassy that the operation will begin within a day, a senior U.S. administration official told Foreign Policy late Tuesday. Two Kurdish officials confirmed that timeline. Meanwhile, Turkey began shelling an SDF border outpost earlier in the day.
“ The border areas of NE are on the edge of a possible humanitarian catastrophe,” said Gen. Mazloum Kobani, commander of the SDF, in a Twitter post. “ This attack will spill the blood of thousands of innocent civilians.”
Kurdish fighters are moving north toward the border “in significant numbers,” the senior administration official said, leaving few forces to guard prisons across the country overflowing with Islamic State fighters and fend off the remnants of the terrorist group.