Published: Fri, December 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Erdogan: Turkey planning military operation to 'wipe out' Syria terrorists

Erdogan: Turkey planning military operation to 'wipe out' Syria terrorists

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Wednesday that the armed forces "will begin our operations to save the east of the Euphrates from the separatist terrorist organization within a few days", referring to an upcoming campaign against the People's Protection Units (YPG).

Long frustrated by USA support for Kurdish militias Turkey views as terrorists, Erdoğan has threatened to push deeper into north-eastern Syria since sending Turkish forces into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in February.

Elizabeth Teoman, analyst at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), said Erdogan may be threatening the attacks "to compel a change in United States policy regarding the USA observation posts along the Syrian-Turkish border". The force forms the backbone of the US-led worldwide anti-ISIS coalition and has been described by the USA military as the most effective force against the extremists. In relation to Turkey's concern in the east of the Euphrates River, Temo underscored that Turkey does not oppose Kurdish presence in the east of the Euphrates, but, it is against the presence of PKK-affiliated groups in the region. Turkey says the YPG is a terrorist organization.

Meanwhile, Talal Silo, the former SDF spokesperson who surrendered to Turkey past year, claimed that the U.S.is planning to replace the incumbent head of the terrorist organization, Abdullah Öcalan, with the most-wanted PKK terrorist Şahin Cilo, codenamed Ferhat Abdi Şahin, who is strongly supported by Öcalan. As these groups made gains against the government, however, jihadi forces rose to the forefront of the opposition, which eventually lost much of its territory to ISIS.

Last month, the US Department of State put bounties on the heads of three senior PKK leaders, despite partnering with the group in Syria.

Last month the United States said would establish observation posts on the border between Kurdish-held northern Syria and Turkey after Turkish cross-border shelling killed four Kurdish fighters.

"We believe this dialogue is the only way to secure the border area in a sustainable manner, and believe that uncoordinated military operations will undermine that shared interest", he added.

"Our target is not the American soldiers".

The YPG still controls a large swathe of northeast Syria, on Turkey's southern border.

Then in January 2018, Turkish military forces launched another cross-border military operation inside Syria, code-named "Operation Olive Branch", with the declared aim of eliminating YPG militants from northern Syria, particularly the Afrin region.

American forces are with the SDF east of the Euphrates as well as in the flashpoint city of Manbij, which is west of the river.

"The campaign against ISIS is not over", he said.

Erdogan had claimed that ISIS is no longer a threat in northern Syria during his speech on Wednesday.

Turkish troops have already driven back Syrian Kurdish forces in two cross-border operations west of the Euphrates, in 2016 and earlier this year.

"We should not and can not allow (IS) to breathe at this critical point or we will jeopardise the significant gains we have made alongside our coalition partners and risk allowing (IS) to resurge", Robertson said.

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