Turkey has launched a long-planned military operation into northeastern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday.
The military offensive, codenamed Operation Peace Spring, is being conducted by the Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Islamic State “to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border and to bring peace to the area”, according to Erdogan.
The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK/YPG and Daesh terrorists in northern Syria. Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area.
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) October 9, 2019
The development came just days after Donald Trump’s announcement that US troops would withdraw from the area, where thousands of captured ISIS fighters and their families are held by Kurdish forces.
Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought the Turkish state for more than three decades. But the US backs the YPG and credits the Kurds for helping defeat ISIS in Syria.
The spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) claimed that Turkish fighter jets had begun carrying out airstrikes on civilian areas.
Trump’s decision to pull back US troops from Syria leaving the SDF vulnerable to attack has been widely criticized by allies and even some of the president’s staunchest Republican allies.