Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to clear his country’s border with Syria from “terrorists,” starting from the northern city of Manbij.
“Turkey will drive YPG [People’s Protection Units], PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and Daesh [ISIS] terrorists out of its southern border by starting from Syria’s Manbij. Our security forces will give terrorists lessons throughout our southern border,” Erdogan said at a campaign rally in Iskenderun district of southern Hatay province on March 10.
Erdogan also stressed that the Turkish military should establish a safe zone in northeastern Syria and said that Turkey will allow all Syrian refugees to settle there.
During his speech, the Turkish president described the military operation against Kurdish forces in the Syrian Kurdish area of Afrin as a success. The operation, that was launched in early 2018, displaced more than 100,000 Syrian Kurds. Dozens others were killed in Turkey’s airstrikes.
According to Ankara, the PKK and the YPG are both terrorist groups. This led to notable tenions with Washington, whose forces are actively working with the YPG in northeastern Syria.
Last month, the U.S. confirmed that it will keep 200 soldiers in Syria after the previously announced withdrawal. These soldiers, along with other Western forces, will establish a safe zone east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria.
Turkey didn’t agree with the U.S. plan. It believes that any safe zone along its border should be under the control of its army only – a move that Kurdish forces will not likely accept.
As the tension between Ankara and Washington over this issue heats up, Turkish media began to exaggerate the threat from Kurdish forces in Syria to Turkey’s national security. The Anadolu Agency claimed in a recent report that the Turkish military foiled 12 drone attacks from the Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria over the last two weeks.
Despite Turkey’s effort to expand its influence in northeastern Syria, the U.S. appears to be willing to defend its Kurdish allies, at least as for now.