SDF says ready for ‘all-out war’ if Turkey invades northern Syria

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have warned that they are ready to defend their territories in northern Syria should Turkey follow through with its plans for an invasion.

The SDF on Saturday said it would “not hesitate to turn any unprovoked [Turkish] attack into an all-out war,” the Syrian pro-government news website Al-Masdar News said.

The statement from the Kurdish-majority umbrella organisation came shortly after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday said Turkey will soon launch an air and ground military operation into northeast Syria targeting the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia.

The SDF is dominated by the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia. Turkey sees the YPG as en existential threat due to its links the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting an armed insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984. The PKK is labelled a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.

The Turkish president on Saturday said the operation targeting the YPG militia could “take place any day.’’

Turkey and the United States in August agreed to set up a safe zone in northern Syria. Ankara aims to clear the area south of its border of the Kurdish-led YPG. Turkey accuses the United States of failing to make enough progress on the zone, amid differences between the countries on who should control it and how far it should reach into Syria. 

Ankara has repeatedly warned that Turkey would be forced to take military action for its own security if its end of September deadline for the zone was not met.