Just like the Kurds warned, Turkish troops have started crossing into northeastern Syria as the country begins a military offensive that President Erdogan has insisted is vital for Turkey’s security. As of early Wednesday morning in New York, a small group of Turkish forces had already entered the country, and reinforcements of troops and artillery were preparing to take up positions, Bloomberg reports.
One video that has been circulating on Twitter showed Turkish troops crossing the border, as journalists warned that “a new phase of this bloody regional war could be about to begin.”
🎥 The latest from the #Turkey / #Syria border as Turkish troops and artillery take up positions. Despite international calls for Turkey to hold back, a new phase of this bloody regional war could be about to begin. @SkyNews pic.twitter.com/w9kf6JDdC2
— Mark Stone (@Stone_SkyNews) October 8, 2019
Even BBG is reporting that the goal of the Turkish operation is to “force back Kurdish militants controlling the border area.” Turkish troops entered Syria at two points along the border near the Syrian towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.
Bloomberg said there was “no immediate comment from Kurdish-led forces” though it noted that the YPG had earlier vowed to defend themselves against any Turkish attack.
Turkish markets were treading water on Wednesday after President Trump insisted that the US wouldn’t stand in Turkey’s way, but that Ankara had promised him that Washington’s allies in the area – i.e. the Kurds – would be safe, with Trump threatening to “obliterate” the Turkish economy if Turkish forces attack the wrong people.
In what has been described as a “dramatic” reversal in US foreign policy, Trump signaled earlier in the week that the US would turn over thousands of ISIS members to Turkey (after their home countries overwhelmingly refused to take them back), and allow the Turkish military to cross into northeastern Syria as the US pulls out. However, Trump’s move is in line with his insistence that other NATO members shoulder more of the responsibility for their defense. Turkey is a NATO member.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told state-run TRT TV that “deployments and work is still underway regarding the operation,” indicating that more Turkish forces will move across the border.
If they want to prevent a resurgence of ISIS, they better hurry up. YPG forces have warned about mass jailbreaks of ISIS prisoners during a Turkish invasion.
Turkey wants to eliminate the YPG because of its ties to the separatist PKK, a Kurdish party inside Turkey that has been battling against Ankara for decades to try and achieve sovereignty for the country’s Kurds. Ironically, though it was Washington’s closest ally on the ground in Syria, the YPG is considered a terrorist organization.
In a statement, Turkey’s chief of communications warned that Kurds have two options: “They can defect, or we will stop them from disrupting our counter-ISIS efforts.”
We imagine the Kurds will find that very convincing.
As for where Turkey goes from here, one journalist has a breakdown:
How will Turkey conduct the operation in Syria?
• First phase: 120km area between Tal Abyad/Rasulayn, where US troops withdrew
• Airforce, drones/jets and howitzers will pound YPG targets
• Then Turkish Special Forces and Syrian National Army will enter
— Turkish reports pic.twitter.com/KhLqKZEEby
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) October 8, 2019