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Dec 13 2018

Turkish military considers six options for new offensive in Syria - Hürriyet

Rather than an all-out offensive, the Turkish military is considering several smaller attacks against pockets of territory controlled by Kurdish rebels in its upcoming operation to the east of the Euphrates river in Syria, Hürriyet reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Wednesday that Turkey would launch a new offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northeast Syria in a few days. The decision risks further political tensions with the United States, which has already opposed the move.

Ankara sees the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union, and the United States. However, the YPG form the backbone of a U.S.-led offensive against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. Washington reportedly maintains a military presence of around 2,000 troops in the region.

The Turkish military is deploying additional personnel and equipment on the Syrian border while notifying its troops in southeast Turkey about the imminent offensive, Hürriyet said. 

Military sources see an all-out Turkish attack along the 500-kilometre long border with Syria as unlikely, Hürriyet said. Citing unidentified sources, it said Turkey could opt for smaller attacks against small areas held by the YPG just inside Syria. 

Another option being considered is using the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Jarablus on the western bank of the Euphrates for the offensive. Turkey seized control of Jarablus after ousting ISIS fighters in the city with Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016. 

Kurdish-controlled Kobane, which was cleared of ISIS in 2014 by the Kurdish rebels, could be one of the targets, Hürriyet said. Kobane lies immediately to the south of Turkey, facing the southeastern town of Suruç.

The Turkish military is also considering using the southeastern Turkish towns of Akçakale, located across from Syria’s Tel Abyad, and Ceylanpınar, which faces Ras al-Ayn, as well as Şenyurt and Nusaybin, as other points of entry into Syria. 

Turkish state television TRT published satellite pictures from Syria on Thursday showing what it said were fortified YPG positions in Kobane and Tel Abyad.

As Turkey prepares for the military offensive in northwestern Syria, the Pentagon warned Ankara that such a move could threaten the U.S. personnel and derail the fight against the Islamic State, CNN said

"Unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party, particularly as U.S. personnel may be present or in the vicinity, is of grave concern. We would find any such actions unacceptable," Commander Sean Robertson, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, told CNN on Wednesday. 

"Our target is definitely not American troops. It is the members of terror organsation operating in the region. I want to emphasise this,” Erdoğan said on Wednesday.

Washington set up observation posts in the northeast Syria border region effort to reduce tensions between Turkey and the US-backed Kurdish fighters.

At this point in time Washington assesses that Turkey does not have enough troops in the area to conduct the type of operation in the timeline outlined by Erdogan, CNN said citing two unnamed U.S. officials.