ANKARA – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Tuesday that his country’s military offensive into northern Syria against Kurdish militias could affect United States troops deployed in the area to support the Kurds against the Islamic State terror organization.
Erdogan was referring to the possible expansion of fighting against Kurdish YPG militias could expand to the Manbij region of Syria, which have been armed and trained by the US, but are themselves considered terrorists by Turkey.
“Obviously we will not attack them (US troops) intentionally, but we will eliminate all the terrorists we see, then they will realize that it would be good for them not to stand by the terrorists,” Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara.
On Jan. 20, the Turkish army launched a cross-border invasion of the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin, with the Turkish government threatening to extend the operation to Manbij, a Syrian region in the hands of the YPG militias since 2016.
Unlike Afrin, Manbij contains troops on the ground from the US-led international coalition in support of the Kurdish militias against IS fighters.
“If a terrorist organization attacks an allied country, as a member of NATO (the US) must oppose,” said the Turkish president.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is set to visit Ankara on Thursday to discuss with Turkish authorities the different points of tension between the two countries, both of whom are allies in NATO.
Tillerson is scheduled to meet Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.