Turkey ready for Syria offensive despite mixed signals from Trump

Published October 9, 2019
In this file photo taken on September 8, a Turkish military vehicle drives on a joint patrol with US troops in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha on the outskirts of Tal Abyad town on the border with Turkey. — AFP
In this file photo taken on September 8, a Turkish military vehicle drives on a joint patrol with US troops in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha on the outskirts of Tal Abyad town on the border with Turkey. — AFP

ISTANBUL: Turkey said on Tuesday it was ready for an offensive into northern Syria, while President Donald Trump insisted the United States had not abandoned its Kurdish allies who would be targeted in the assault.

Trump has blown hot and cold since a surprise announcement on Sunday that Washington was pulling back 50 to 100 “special operators” from Syria’s northern frontier.

The troops had served as a buffer preventing a long-planned attack by the Turkish military against Kurdish forces, who were crucial in the years-long campaign to defeat the militant Islamic State group but are viewed as “terrorists” by Ankara. After appearing to give a green light to the Turkish invasion on Sunday, Trump later threatened to “obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it went too far.

“Any unforced or unnecessary fighting by Turkey will be devastating to their economy and to their very fragile currency,” he tweeted.

But he also gave a warm account of Turkey in other tweets and announced that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would visit Washington on November 13.

“So many people conveniently forget that Turkey is a big trading partner of the United States,” he said.

Ankara had already brushed aside Trump’s warnings, with Vice-President Fuat Oktay saying: “Turkey is not a country that will act according to threats.”

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2019

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