White House: Turkey to begin military operation in Northern Syria

American troops ‘will no longer be in the immediate area’ casting uncertainty on fate of its Kurdish allies. The White House has announced that Turkey will soon begin its military operation in Northern Syria, casting uncertainty on the fate of the Kurdish fighters allied with the US campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group. Press secretary Stephanie Grisham said a a statement late on Sunday (0300 GMT Monday) that US troops “will not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area.” It was not clear whether that meant the US would be withdrawing its 1,000 or so troops completely from Northern Syria. Grisham said that after a call between President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey will take custody of foreign fighters captured in the US-led campaign against ISIL who have been held by the Kurdish forces supported by the US. Turkey had in the past warned of carrying out military operations east of the Euphrates River, but put them on hold after agreeing with the US to create a safe zone inside Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey that would be cleared of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) armed group. Kurdish forces bore the brunt of the ground campaign against ISIL but are considered as “terrorists” by the Turkish government. Earlier this month, Erdogan said that Turkey has little choice but to act alone in creating a “safe zone” in Syria. Under the Turkish plan a zone 30km (19 miles) deep will be established along 480km (300 miles) of the border with Syria. Ankara would allow up to two million Syrian refugees to be settled in the area, but would like to see the area clear of the Kurds. Since agreeing to set up the zone in northern Syria, Turkey has repeatedly warned of unilateral military action if efforts do not meet its expectations, saying it would not tolerate any attempts by the US to stall the process….
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