Turkey to launch planned military operation in northern Syria, US says

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, Turkey on October 21, 2018.Cem Oksuz | Anadolu Agency | Getty ImagesTurkey will be launching a planned military operation in northern Syria, and the United States will withdraw its troops in the area ahead of the attack, a statement from U.S. press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.”Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” the statement late Sunday night said, adding that President Donald Trump had spoken to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone. “The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”Earlier this year, Turkey said it will go ahead with its military offensive against Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria regardless of whether the U.S. withdraws its troops from the country. Ankara has already amassed thousands of Turkish troops along its border with Syria.Reuters reported Saturday that Erdogan said military operations — both air and ground — taking place east of the Euphrates river in Syria, could begin any time.The terror group ISIS, or the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, swept across Syria and Iraq in 2014 and captured vast swathes of territory in the region in the ensuing years.The U.S. supports Kurds in northern Syria that helped retake some of that territory, but Turkey has always rejected the legitimacy of the Kurdish presence in Syria. Turkey has long fought Kurdish forces within its own borders and regularly targets Kurdish groups in Iraq.”Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial ‘Caliphate’ by the United States,” the statement said. — CNBC Natasha Turak contributed to this report.

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