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Turkish President Erdogan confirms military operation in northern Syria has begun


A Syrian boy watches as Turkish military vehicles, part of a US military convoy, take part in joint patrol in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha on the outskirts of Tal Abyad town along the border with Turkey, on October 4, 2019.

Delil Souleiman | AFP | Getty Images

Turkey has launched a military operation in northern Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday, days after the Trump administration announced it would pull U.S. troops away from the area.

“Turkish Armed Forces together with the Syrian National Army against PKK / YPG and Deash terrorist organizations in northern Syria #BarışPınarıHarekatı has started,” Erdogan wrote on Twitter, according to that site’s translation feature.

“Our aim is to destroy the terror corridor which is trying to be established on our southern border and to bring peace and peace to the region,” Erdogan tweeted.

“With the Operation Spring of Peace, we will eliminate the threat of terrorism towards our country. Thanks to the SAFE ZONE we will establish, we will ensure that Syrian refugees return to their countries. We will protect the territorial integrity of Syria, and free the people of the region from the clutches of terror,” he tweeted.

Turkey’s long-expected incursion in northern Syria came less than a week after Trump spoke with Erdogan on the phone. After the call, the White House announced that “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria” and “United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”

The abrupt foreign policy move was met with immediate bipartisan criticism, with lawmakers accusing the Trump administration of abandoning the Kurdish forces in the area who helped the U.S. fight ISIS forces. Turkey and Kurdish groups have clashed for years, and Ankara has recently signaled that it planned to carry out operations against the Kurds near Syria’s northern border with Turkey.

Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces — a mostly Kurdish group of soldiers fighting ISIS — tweeted Wednesday that “Turkish warplanes have started to carry out airstrikes on civilian areas.”

Trump took to Twitter to justify the decision to withdraw. 

“It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump tweeted Monday. “WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.”

“Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their ‘neighborhood,'” the president wrote.

On Wednesday, Trump followed up by railing against what he characterized as past botched attempts by the U.S. to meddle in the Middle East.

“Now we are slowly & carefully bringing our great soldiers & military home,” Trump said. “Our focus is on the BIG PICTURE! THE USA IS GREATER THAN EVER BEFORE!”

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

— CNBC’s John Schoen contributed to this report.


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