Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will clear Syria both of a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia and Islamic State (IS) militants after the U.S. decision to pull troops out.
"In the following months we will see an operational style aimed at removing YPG [Kurdish People's Protection Units] and Daesh [IS] elements on the ground in Syria," Erdogan said in Istanbul on December 21.
On December 12, Erdogan announced that Turkey will launch a new military offensive against Kurdish militants east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria.
Meanwhile, Syrian Kurdish forces involved in the battle against IS remnants said they could withdraw from the front lines and redeploy to the Turkish border if the region they control is attacked by Turkey.
Ilham Ahmad, a leader of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the political wing of the Kurdish-led forces, warned that a Turkish attack could bring the battle against IS in Syria to a halt.
The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish, Arab, and Assyrian/Syriac militias, is militarily led by the YPG, which Turkey regards as a terrorist group. U.S. support for the YPG has strained ties between the two NATO allies.
The Kurds are seen as the big losers of U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of Syria, a move that leaves Kurds who helped rout IS from most of Syria vulnerable to attack from Turkey.