The PKK/YPG-controlled regions of Manbij, Tal Rifaat and Ain al-Arab have been specified as the main targets of a possible ground operation by Türkiye in northern Syria.
While the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) continue Operation Claw-Sword, preparations have been completed for the land part of the operation. The first targets of the TSK and Turkish-backed Syrian forces are Ain al-Arab, the military center of the terrorist organization, and Tal Rifaat and Manbij, west of the Euphrates river.
While Türkiye strikes terrorist targets with air and ground fire support elements on the ground, diplomatic talks with Russia and the United States continue at the table.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently said that Türkiye is still determined to establish a 30-kilometer-deep (18.6-mile-deep) security strip next to its borders, something it previously sought to do with U.S. and Russian cooperation on its southern border. Turkish officials have complained that Washington and Moscow failed to uphold their ends of the deal.
“We do not need to get permission from anyone while taking steps concerning the security of our homeland and our people, and we will not be held accountable to anyone,” Erdoğan added.
Stressing that no one will force Türkiye into a position that goes against its own interests in political, diplomatic, economic and military terms through “empty threats,” the president also said no one should be disturbed by Türkiye’s military operations aimed at expanding the circle of security and peace.
“We do not have to tolerate the hypocrisy of those who support registered terrorist groups with name-changing games,” Erdoğan said.
Türkiye’s planned ground operation against terrorist groups in northern Syria could be launched at any time, Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın also said Tuesday.
Speaking during a televised interview on A Haber, Kalın said that Türkiye won’t request permission from anyone. “Operations can be done in different ways. It could be tomorrow, next week or anytime. Türkiye will determine the time, place and scope,” Kalın added.
“The Istiklal attack completely changed the process … No matter where it comes from, we continue to work to end this threat. Our operations will continue,” he warned.
Kalın also underlined that Türkiye’s three previous operations have prevented a terror corridor from being established between northern Iraq and the Eastern Mediterranean.
“Our President (Erdoğan) has called for a safe zone for world leaders since the (former U.S. President Barack) Obama administration. If it had been a (30-kilometer) safe zone, there would have been neither such migration nor terrorist attacks,” he said.
Recently, Türkiye launched Operation Claw-Sword, a cross-border aerial campaign against the PKK terrorist group and its Syrian wing, the YPG, which have illegal hideouts across the Iraqi and Syrian borders where they plan attacks on Turkish soil.
The country’s air operation followed a PKK/YPG terrorist attack on Nov. 13 on Istanbul’s crowded Istiklal Street that killed six people and left 81 injured.
After the air operation was launched, Erdoğan also signaled a ground operation to northern Iraq and northern Syria to eliminate the terrorist threat, adding, “This is not limited to just an air operation.”
The president specified northern Syria’s YPG-controlled Tal Rifaat, Manbij and Ain al-Arab regions as possible targets to clear of terrorists.
The Turkish leader has threatened a new military operation into northern Syria since May and upped those threats in the wake of this month’s attack. Erdoğan has repeatedly called for a 30-kilometer safe zone to protect Türkiye against cross-border attacks from Syrian territory.
US diplomats in Irbil
While tensions rose before the ground operation in northern Syria, it was reported that the United States had withdrawn its civilian personnel, including diplomats, from northern and eastern Syria to Irbil.
While not denied by the U.S. State Department, Central Command (CENTCOM) announced that they would not talk about this issue, citing the security of American soldiers in Syria.
The U.S. Department of Defense said Tuesday it reduced its patrols with the PKK/YPG in the wake of Türkiye’s airstrikes against the terror group.
Speaking at a press conference, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the U.S. recognizes Türkiye’s security concerns but remains “deeply concerned” about the airstrikes in northern Syria.
Ryder said the Daesh mission “right now” continues, adding: “We have reduced the number of partner patrols” with the terror group.
The spokesperson also voiced concern about a potential ground operation by Türkiye and said it “would severely jeopardize the hard-fought gains” against the Daesh terror group.
He called for restraint and said the U.S. maintains regular communication with Ankara.