As President Donald Trump was being denounced from all political sides—both domestically and on the international stage—for his decision to rapidly withdraw troops from northeast Syria, reporting on Monday indicated Turkey has already launched bombing raids across the border in order to target the very Kurdish forces which long acted as key coalition allies and foot soldiers against the Islamic State (ISIS).
As the Jerusalem Post reports:
Turkish forces carried out attacks against Kurdish forces and the anti-Assad Syrian Democratic Forces militia in Syria and Iraq near the Turkish border on Monday evening.
Turkish forces attacked SDF positions in the city of al-Malikiyah in the Hasakah area in northern Syria, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.
The SDF includes Kurds and others in eastern Syria which the US has helped train, assist and advise during the war on ISIS.
Earlier in the day, Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who urged Trump to withdrawal American troops from the region, had warned that military action might come swiftly.
“We have made a decision,” Erdoğan told reporters before leaving the country on his way to Serbia. “We said ‘one night we could come suddenly.’ We continue our determination.”
Despite the reports from SANA, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights later denied that attacks by the Turkish military had taken place in the area. “According to the SOHR,” the Jerusalem Post reported, “the airstrikes hit targets in Iraq. A White House official stated later on Monday night that the US has not seen any signs of a Turkish operation in Syria yet, according to Steve Herman, a reporter from Voice of America news.”
While the Turkish government continues to treat Kurdish elements in Syria and Iraq—both the SDF and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—as terrorists organizations, both have been instrumental in fighting ISIS in the region as they’ve also sought to exercise political autonomy despite the violence and instability that has beset the region since the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the later fracture in Syria that resulted in civil war.
According to the Anadolu Agency in Turkey, the nation’s military did take credit for airstrikes against PKK targets in Iraq on Monday:
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Turkish fighter jets neutralized three PKK terrorists in northern Iraq, the country’s National Defense Ministry announced on Monday.
Air-backed operations were carried out in Gara region, the ministry said on Twitter.
Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply that the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
The SDF, meanwhile, has preemptively condemned any planned incursion by Turkey.
“Turkey’s unprovoked attack on our areas will have a negative impact on our fight against ISIS and the stability and peace we have created in the region in the recent years,” said the SDF in a press statement on Monday. “As the Syrian Democratic Forces, we are determined to defend our land at all costs.”
On the subject of Trump’s decision and U.S. involvement, Amjed Osman, a spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Council, said that “America’s attitude will create a negative impact on the whole region, and what has been built up here, the peace and the stability in this region.”
The decision to remove U.S. forces in this manner, Osman added, “will destroy all the advances, particularly with regards to security. We have always said that Erdoğan’s threats are serious. There is no serious international will to bring an end to the Syrian crisis. The Turkish threats mean that the situation in this region will return to point zero. There will be chaos once again.”