Turkey preparations for Syria offensive ‘completed’

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Turkey’s preparations for an offensive in northern Syria have been “completed”, the defense ministry said Tuesday, after confusing signals from the US over whether it would allow an operation.

US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Turkey’s border with Syria after a phone call with his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish president has repeatedly threatened to attack Kurdish militants in northern Syria due to their ties with separatists in his own country.

“All of the preparations for an operation have been completed,” the Turkish defense ministry tweeted, hours after US forces withdrew from the border area.

Erdogan had earlier said the operation could come at any moment “without warning”.

Trump’s move was seen by critics as an abandonment of Kurdish forces which had been the key ally in the fight against ISIS.

But there was confusion later on Monday when Trump tweeted that he would “obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it did anything he did not like.

The White House also said Turkey would be responsible for thousands of ISIS prisoners currently held in Kurdish detention centers.

Ankara says it wants a “safe zone” along northern Syria that will act as a buffer against Kurdish forces and also allow the return home of up to two million Syrian refugees.

It has previously launched two cross-border offensives against ISIS in 2016 and the YPG in 2018, with the support of Syrian rebels.

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