Turkey launches military operation against the Kurds in Syria just days after Trump abandoned them

FILE - In this Wednesday, July 11, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump, left, talks with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as they arrive together for a family photo at a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels. The White House says Turkey will soon invade Northern Syria, casting uncertainty on the fate of the Kurdish fighters allied with the U.S. against in a campaign against the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)FILE - In this Wednesday, July 11, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump, left, talks with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as they arrive together for a family photo at a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels. The White House says Turkey will soon invade Northern Syria, casting uncertainty on the fate of the Kurdish fighters allied with the U.S. against in a campaign against the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)Associated Press

  • Turkey began a military operation against Kurdish forces in northeast Syria on Wednesday, just several days after the Trump administration announced the US was pulling troops from the region.
  • "The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK/YPG and Daesh terrorists in northern Syria. Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement.
  • President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from northeast Syria was widely viewed as offering a greenlight to a Turkish military incursion, and the move was criticized heavily by congressional Republicans.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Turkey began an expected military operation against US-backed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria on Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced.

Erdogan in a tweet said, "The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK/YPG and Daesh terrorists in northern Syria. Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area."

The Turkish leader went on to say that the operation will "neutralize terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes."

"We will preserve Syria's territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists," he added.

Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist affiliate due to its association with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Since the mid-1980s, the PKK has waged a violent campaign against the Turkish government as it seeks to establish an independent Kurdish state within Turkey.

Turkey launched the operation just a few days after Trump abandoned the Kurds

The Turkish operation against Kurdish forces began just three days after the Trump administration abruptly announced it was withdrawing US troops stationed in the region, a move that led to widespread criticism - including from congressional Republicans. The announcement came after a phone call between President Donald Trump and Erdogan.

The decision was seen as the US abandoning the Kurds to a potential massacre by Turkey. The Kurds bore the brunt of the US-led campaign against ISIS, and had previously been made assurances by the US that if they dismantled defensive positions along the border they would be protected from a Turkish assault.

Read more: Trump's decision to abandon the Kurds in Syria sends a dangerous message to US allies around the world

Ahead of the Turkish military incursion, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) issued a desperate plea for the international community and countries who fought as part of the US-led coalition against ISIS to "carry out their responsibilities to avoid a possible impending humanitarian disaster."

"This attack will spill the blood of thousands of innocent civilians because our border areas are overcrowded," the SDF's official Twitter account said in a tweet.

There are also broad concerns that the Turkish operation will create a security vacuum, opening the door for the resurgence of ISIS in the region while serving to the benefit of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well Russia and Iran, countries the Syrian government is allied with.

The Kurdish forces that Turkey is targeting are detaining thousands of ISIS fighters and US lawmakers have expressed consternation that a Turkish incursion could pave the way for their escape.

Trump ahead of the military incursion: 'The stupid endless wars, for us, are ending!'

Ahead of Erdogan's announcement on the onset of the military incursion, Trump on Wednesday in a tweet characterized the impending clash between Turkish and Kurdish forces as "fighting between various groups that has been going on for hundreds of years."

"USA should never have been in Middle East. Moved our 50 soldiers out," Trump added. "Turkey MUST take over captured ISIS fighters that Europe refused to have returned. The stupid endless wars, for us, are ending!"

The Trump administration has said it does not endorse Turkey's assault on Kurdish forces, and has rejected the notion the withdrawal of US forces from northeast Syria offered Erdogan a "greenlight" for a military incursion.

Amid the backlash from congressional lawmakers and former US officials, including former members of his administration, Trump earlier this week issued a warning to Turkey that he would "obliterate" its economy if in his "great and unmatched wisdom" he considers it's done something "off limits."

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider on whether the president considered to follow up on this threat based on Turkey's actions on Wednesday.
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