Preparations for a major military operation in northeast Syria are complete, Turkey announced on Tuesday after the United States started pulling back troops and opened the way for a Turkish attack on Kurdish-led forces long allied to Washington.
But US President Donald Trump warned he would “obliterate” the NATO ally’s economy if it took action in Syria that he considered “off limits” following his decision on Sunday to pull 50 American special forces troops from the border region.
The US withdrawal will leave its Kurdish-led partner – the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – vulnerable to an incursion by Turkey’s military, which brands them “terrorists” because of their links to Kurdish fighters who have waged a decades-long resistance inside Turkey.
Turkey’s armed forces “will never tolerate the establishment of a terror corridor on our borders. All preparations for the operation have been completed”, the defence ministry said on Twitter early on Tuesday.
“It is essential to establish a safe zone/peace corridor to contribute to our region’s peace and stability, and for Syrians to achieve a safe life,” it said.
Turkey’s vice president said his country will not bow to threats over its Syria plans. “Where Turkey’s security is concerned, we determine our own path but we set our own limits,” Fuat Oktay said in apparent response to Trump’s comments.