U.S. warns Turkey against new intervention in northeast Syria

The United States has reiterated its opposition to Turkish military operations against Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria, extending emergency powers to counteract the move.

Turkey launched an offensive against the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Oct. 2019 following the partial withdrawal of American troops from the region.

But Turkey’s intervention “undermines the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, endangers civilians and further threatens to undermine the peace, security, and stability in the region”, U.S. President Donald Trump said in an official letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday.

Backed by U.S. military support, the SDF played a decisive role in the territorial defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) in March 2019. But the Trump administration has been reluctant to commit long-term support for the group, which is regarded as a national security threat by Turkey for links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Trump initially withdrew U.S. forces from Syria having declared ISIS defeated, precipitating Turkey’s offensive, but was forced to row back under domestic and international pressure.

A small number of U.S. troops remain in the region as part of Trump’s self-declared policy to “protect the oil”, where they continue to cooperate with the SDF against a growing ISIS insurgency.

But Turkey’s actions “continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”, President Trump said.

In recent months, the U.S. presence has resulted in a number of altercations with the Russian military, which also sought to capitalise from the U.S. withdrawal.

In response, the U.S. expanded its deployment to Syria earlier this month, sending 100 troops and more military vehicles to the country.

The SDF have repeatedly warned of a fresh Turkish attack, which they say would undermine their anti-ISIS efforts and pave the way for the group’s resurgence across the region.