Turkey Prepared for Assault on Kurdish Militia in Syria
Turkey has completed preparations for a new operation in northern Syria to “destroy” a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia that Ankara considers to be a terrorist group, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday.
The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (Y.P.G.) militia holds territory east of the Euphrates River, where Turkey has repeatedly threatened to launch an fresh offensive.
“We are going to destroy the terrorist structure in the east of the Euphrates. We have completed our preparations, plans, programs regarding this issue,” Erdogan told lawmakers from his ruling party in parliament.
Erdogan appeared to indirectly confirm Turkish state media reports that the Turkish military fired artillery shells at Y.P.G. positions east of the Euphrates in the Kobane region of northern Syria on Sunday. The Y.P.G. has held the area since 2015.
“In fact, in the past few days, we have begun real interventions against the terror organization,” Erdogan said, without giving further details.
“We are going to breathe down the necks of the terror organisation with comprehensive and effective operations soon. As I have always said, we can come suddenly one night.”
Erdogan has previously made similar threats and on Friday gave the Y.P.G. a “final warning”.
While the Y.P.G. has worked closely with Washington against the Islamic State group in Syria, causing tension between N.A.T.O. allies Turkey and the U.S., Ankara says the militia is a “terrorist offshoot” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.).
The P.K.K. has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and is blacklisted as a terror group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
The Y.P.G. holds swathes of territory in northern and northeastern Syria.
Earlier this year, Turkish military forces backed Syrian opposition fighters to retake the western Afrin region from the Y.P.G. during a two-month air and ground offensive.
Ankara previously launched an offensive between 2016 and 2017 against I.S. on its border with Syria and to stop areas under Y.P.G. control from joining.