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Turkey begins an offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria

Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

"Now there's no hope for the future. There's just a lot of fear. ... We don't know if overnight we'll become victims or migrants," Rassoul said.

For years, Erdogan has clamored for the U.S. to abandon the Kurdish forces, which forms the core of the Syrian Democratic Forces that has risen to become the U.S.'s top partner in Syria against Islamic State.

Turkey, however, sees the force as a terrorist offshoot of Kurdish separatist movements it has fought at home and wants to excise them from the area, despite U.S. assurances and attempts at forging a security mechanism amenable to Ankara.

On Sunday, Ankara appeared to get its wish: President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, clearing the path for a Turkish incursion.

The decision came as a shock to the United States' Kurdish partners.

"We were together on a patrol on Sunday. We got back and were supposed to meet at noon the next day," said Khalil Khalfo, a commander in the Tal Abyadh Military Council, a militia under the Syrian Democratic Forces, in an interview on Wednesday.

 

"That morning at six we got a message telling us they're leaving. That was it."

Trump, facing intense pressure from all corners, including his own Republican allies, later walked back his comments and threatened "to obliterate" Turkey's economy if it went too far, even as he insisted on Twitter on Tuesday that "in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds," who he said were "special people and wonderful fighters."

Yet that sentiment has done little to stop the march toward conflict.

On Wednesday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a speech from Istanbul that Turkey's preparations and deployments were ongoing, according to state news operator Anadolu.

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