YPG battle looms after United States pullout announcement

Geraldine Edwards
December 26, 2018

Ankara says its military power is enough to defeat Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) after U.S. troops withdraw from Syria.

Reports say a military convoy has been deployed to Turkey's Kilis province.

Turkey said this month it would launch a new military operation to sweep the YPG Kurdish militia from northern Syria, but put that on hold after the United States said it would pull its troops out.

Ankara considers the Kurdish fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces to be part of an terrorist insurgency causing unrest in the country.

Ankara regards the YPG as terrorists and has been infuriated by US support for the group in the fight against Islamic State.

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US President Donald Trump announced Wednesday the official withdrawal of his nation's troops from Syria after Daesh was defeated. USA forces are still in Manbij and the Turkish-backed fighters will not advance until they withdraw, Hamoud told Reuters.

While the foreign minister did not give a time frame, president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week that Turkey would stall its offensive as part of coordination with the USA over the planned withdrawal of USA forces from the area.

Earlier in the day, Turkish Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın said Trump had accepted an invitation from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to visit Turkey in 2019 during a phone call Sunday.

Cavusoglu made the remarks as Ankara postponed the military operation following a USA announcement for withdrawal from the war-torn country.

The deployment was coordinated with the US-backed militia in Manbij, the spokesman for the Manbij Military Council said.

US President Donald Trump abruptly announced the pullout from Syria last week, surprising allies and sparking the resignation of two of his top aides.

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Critics of Trump's decision fear that thousands of Islamic State (IS) group extremist members are still thought to be in Syria, despite Trump's claim of having defeated IS.

Outgoing US Defense Secretary James Mattis has signed the order for the withdrawal of the American forces from Syria, the Defense Department said on Monday.

The U.S. leader tweeted that Erdogan had told him Ankara would "eradicate" the last IS elements.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the U.S. and the European Union.

"If France is staying to contribute to Syria's future, great, but if they are doing this to protect the [militia], this will bring no benefit to anyone", Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, according to Hurriyet daily.

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Turkey will take over the remnants of the fight to remove Isis from its last slivers of territory and has the "strength to neutralise" Isis on its own, Çavuşoğlu said. On Monday, Turkey warned Syria that it would forcefully retaliate against any attack on its military positions there.

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