Newspaper: Turkey plans new Syria offensive within days

Clay Curtis
December 14, 2018

"Our target is never United States soldiers", Erdogan said in a speech televised live.

Turkey has already intervened to sweep YPG fighters from territory west of the Euphrates in military campaigns over the past two years, but up until now, it had not gone east of the river - partly to avoid direct confrontation with U.S. forces.

Mattis also used the informal session to announce that small units from among the estimated 2,000 USA troops in Syria would move north to set up observation posts near the Turkey-Syria border.

Earlier on Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country plans to launch a new military operation in Syria within days against the YPG, which Turkey considers as a terrorist group.

US troops also recently began running joint patrols with the Turkish military in Manbij, a flashpoint town that Turkey claims harbors elements of the YPG (People's Protection Units).

USA forces have set up an observation point in a Syrian town controlled by its Kurdish-led Syrian allies along the border with Turkey in northeastern Syria, scene of recent tension. Ankara views YPG fighters as terrorists due to their links to the Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey.

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

Ankara has recently repeatedly voiced frustration about what it says are delays in the implementation of a deal with the United States to clear the YPG from the town of Manbij, just west of the Euphrates.

"Our target is not the American soldiers".

He called on the US not to allow "deep" disagreements over Syria policy to impede future cooperation between the two countries.

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"Erdogan genuinely fears that the US support for Syrian Kurdish forces might continue even after the war on IS is over", he told VOA. "We can not overlook such moves", Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said yesterday. "Therefore, we will do it".

In November, Turkish and US troops began joint patrols in northern Syria.

Commenting on the Erdogan remarks, a Pentagon spokesman said U.S.

"Unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party, particularly as USA personnel may be present or in the vicinity, is of grave concern", Navy Cmdr. "We would find any such actions unacceptable", Cmdr. Erdogan offered his assurances that the USA military would be spared.

Seven mass graves containing hundreds of unidentified bodies have been unearthed near the former IS group stronghold of Albu Kamal in eastern Syria, official news agency SANA said.

"The campaign against ISIS is not over", he said. Kurds, the Pentagon stressed, remain a "committed partner" in Washington's fight against Islamic State.

Not only Turkey has been expressing its discomfort over Washington's support for the terrorist group and YPG's atrocities in Syria, but also other Syrian Kurdish people conveyed their uneasiness over YPG to the U.S. "We should not and can not allow ISIS to breathe at this critical point or we will jeopardize the significant gains we have made alongside our Coalition partners and risk allowing ISIS to resurge".

"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. Another cross-border incursion by the Turkish military, called Operation Euphrates Shield, was held from August 2016 to March 2017 with the aim of driving out IS terrorists, and the US-backed forces away from the border.

FILE - A US military commander, second from right, walks with Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) at Mount Karachok near Malikiya, Syria, April 25, 2017.

A motorcycle exploded near a mosque in the town of al-Bab, killing three people. No one was reported killed in those blasts.

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