Turkey says military preparations for new Syria campaign against Kurdish forces 'complete'

Turkey says military preparations for new Syria campaign against Kurdish forces 'complete'
Turkey could soon launch a huge military offensive into Syria.
2 min read
30 January, 2019
Akar has met with Turkish army officers [Getty]

Turkey said on Tuesday that preparations for a planned offensive into Syria are complete, with Ankara waiting for an American withdrawal before its tanks roll into the north of the war-torn country.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said the military is ready at any time for a new campaign against Kurdish fighters east of the River Euphrates and other parts of Syria.

"When the time comes, the necessary actions will be taken both in Manbij and east of the Euphrates," Akar said 

Turkey has already captured large parts of northwest Syria, following military campaigns against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Islamic State group.

Turkish troops have been massing on the border with Syria Syria for weeks, ready to take military action against Kurdish YPG factions.

The US said it would withdraw its forces from Syria soon, after aiding the Syrian Democratic Forces - which includes a large YPG contingent - in their battle against the Islamic State group.

With IS close to defeat on the battlefield, the Kurdish militias fear the US will completely disengage from Syria, leaving them at the mercy of the huge Turkish military.

President Donald Trump announced in December that US troops would soon withdraw from Syria, with Ankara eager to crush the strong Kurdish military presence that has build-up over the border since the start the 2011 Syrian war.

Ankara officials have met senior Russian diplomats to strike an agreement on Turkish intervention, but Moscow appears to be resisting such an initiative and insist that the Syrian regime take control of the Kurdish-occupied territories in the north.

Turkey has also been frustrated with signs that Trump's announcement of a US pull-out from Syria was premature, and the withdrawal of American troops could take longer than expected.

The announcement by Akar on Tuesday would be one way of pressuring Washington to commit to the promise by the White House for a complete withdrawal from Syria.

But a US security chief cautioned on Tuesday that IS remains a potent threat, despite being close to defeat on the battlefield.