Erdogan Threatens to Expand Syria Offensive as the U.S. Establishes New Front-Line Positions
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that his forces would press on with a campaign to drive Kurdish fighters from northern Syria, the Associated Press reported.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his Iranian and Russian counterparts in Ankara, Erdogan said that Turkish forces would first push eastward into Manbij, which is held by the Kurdish militia known as the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG).
“I say here once again that we will not stop until we have made safe all areas controlled by the (YPG), starting with Manbij,” Erdogan said.
This is not the first time Erdogan has threatened to attack the area, where U.S.-led coalition forces are based. However, his comments come at a time when U.S. forces are said to be establishing new front-line positions outside Manbij in anticipation of a potential attack, according to the AP.
A front-line commander in Manbij, a member of the Manbij Military Council, told the AP that fortified U.S. positions were meant to deter attacks. “It is to protect the area and to ensure that there is no attack from Turkey or from the mercenaries in the area,” said the official on the condition of anonymity.
The U.S. Will Not Pull Out of Syria Immediately: Administration Official
President Donald Trump has reportedly agreed to keep U.S. forces in Syria for a little longer but has ruled out the prospect of a long-term commitment to the war-torn country, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Citing an unidentified senior administration official, Reuters said that Trump expressed this decision during a National Security Council (NSC) meeting this week.
“We’re not going to immediately withdraw but neither is the president willing to back a long-term commitment,” the official said.
Trump did not specify when he would seek to pull troops out of Syria, but the administration official said the impression Trump left during the NSC meeting was that he would withdraw in a year or less. “He’s not going to tolerate several years to a half decade,” the official said.
Trump on Tuesday said he was seriously considering pulling U.S. troops out of Syria now that the so-called Islamic State is nearly defeated. “Sometimes it’s time to come back home, and we’re thinking about that very seriously,” he told reporters at a news conference.
Last week he said that U.S. forces would be leaving Syria imminently. “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon,” Trump said on Thursday. “Let the other people take care of it now.”
- The Washington Post: Can Trump Really Quit Syria?
- The New York Times: They Have Many Differences, but on Syria, Trump Seems Much Like Obama
- NPR: ‘Two Sisters’ Leave Home for Syria, Tearing a Family Apart
- Al Jazeera: A Year After Khan Sheikhoun, Syria Chemical Weapons ‘Still Used’
- BBC: Trumplomacy: Can U.S. Quit Syria ‘Very Soon’? It’s Complicated