Tensions could soon increase between NATO allies as Turkey has announced that it plans to launch a new military operation to drive out US-backed Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria.
The announcement was made by Turkish President Erdogan, who claimed that the operation will begin within a few days, but will not specifically target American soldiers.
“We have said, and we are saying now that we will begin our operation to rescue the east of the Euphrates from the separatist organization within a few days,” he said. “Our target is not the American soldiers; it’s terror organizations that are active in the region.”
Turkey claimed that its intended target is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which it considers a “terrorist” group. Earlier this year, Washington and Ankara agreed to a deal to remove US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces away from a city near the Turkish border. Turkey has since claimed that the troops were heavily infiltrated with YPG forces after the United States “did not keep its promises” and failed to follow through on the agreement.
In response to the announcement, the Pentagon called Turkey’s proposed military operation “unacceptable.”A Pentagon spokesperson released a statement, which said that unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party, particularly when U.S. personnel are present, is a matter of grave concern.
“Unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party, particularly as US personnel may be present or in the vicinity, is of grave concern. We would find any such actions unacceptable,” Cmdr. Sean Robertson said.
This is not the first time Turkey has threatened to send troops to confront US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria along the border between the two countries. Turkey notably sent troops to a dozen outposts on Syrian territory in September, claiming that the move was meant to be a show of force to discourage Russia and Syria from trying to gain control of the rebel-held region.
It remains to be seen when Turkey will begin targeting US-backed troops, how the United States will respond, and ultimately, how the conflict will impact the ties between the two NATO allies.