Erdogan announces the postponement of the military campaign on the east of the Euphrates and says he will take over the fight against IS after U.S. pull-out

Erdogan announces the postponement of the military campaign on the east of the Euphrates and says he will take over the fight against IS after U.S. pull-out

Dec 24 2018

ARK News: Turkey will take over the fight against Islamic State militias in Syria as the United States withdraws its troops, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday, in the latest upheaval wrought by Washington’s abrupt policy shift.

The surprise announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump this week that he would withdraw roughly 2,000 troops has felled a pillar of American policy in the Middle East. Critics say Trump’s decision will make it harder to find a diplomatic solution to Syria’s seven-year-old conflict.

For Turkey, the step removes a source of friction with the United States. Erdogan has long castigated his NATO ally over its support for Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters against Islamic State. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group and an offshoot of the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), fighting for Kurdish autonomy across the border on Turkish soil.

In a speech in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey would mobilize to fight remaining Islamic State forces in Syria and temporarily delay plans to attack (SDF) in the northeast of Syria - shifts both precipitated by the American decision to withdraw.

“We will be working on our operational plans to eliminate ISIS (Islamic State) elements, which are said to remain intact in Syria, in line with our conversation with President Trump,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish president had announced plans last week to start an operation east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to oust the YPG from the area that it largely controls. This week, he said the campaign could come at any moment. But on Friday, he cited the talk with Trump as a reason to wait.

“Our phone call with President Trump, along with contacts between our diplomats and security officials and statements by the United States, have led us to wait a little longer,” he said.

“We have postponed our military operation against the east of the Euphrates river until we see on the ground the result of America’s decision to withdraw from Syria.”
Erdogan said, however, that this was not an “open-ended waiting period” and that, due to past “negative experiences”, Ankara welcomed the United States’ statements with an equal amount of pleasure and caution.

Trump maintained that IS had been wiped out, a view not shared by key allies, that Washington had been doing the work of other countries and it was “time for others to finally fight”.

Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria may not be able to continue to hold Islamic State prisoners if the situation in the region gets out of control after a U.S. pullout, top Syrian Kurdish official Ilham Ahmed said on Friday.

Source: Reuters

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