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Turkey is prepared for possible Syria border operation, Erdogan says
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey is ready to act on its southern border with Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said, after warning that it could take unilateral steps if the U.S. does not establish a "safe zone" in northeast Syria this month.
"Our preparations along our borders are complete," Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul on Saturday before departing to attend a U.N. General Assembly meeting.
NATO allies Turkey and the U.S. have started joint land and air patrols along part of the border strip, but Ankara says Washington is moving too slowly to establish a sufficiently large safe zone to push Syrian Kurdish forces from the border.
Turkey has been angered by U.S. support for Kurdish-led forces which fought Islamic State in Syria. It considers the Kurdish YPG fighters a terrorist organization and wants them removed from more than 400 km (250 miles) of border.
The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces has said they will pull back up to 14 km in some areas. Turkey says the U.S. had agreed that the "safe zone" should extend 32 km into Syria.
Erdogan reiterated complaints over U.S. support for the Kurdish fighters, saying Washington was providing them with arms.
"We have no wish to come face to face with the U.S." he said. "However, we cannot afford to overlook the support that the U.S. is giving to a terrorist organization."
His comments about border preparations came a day after two security sources said doctors have been stationed in southern Turkish provinces to prepare for a possible incursion into Syria.
One source said doctors' leave had been suspended. "We have been preparing for a long time," the source said. "The operation can be conducted whenever deemed necessary."
Turkey has already launched two military incursions into northern Syria since 2016, targeting Islamic State and YPG forces west of the Euphrates
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Irem Koca; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editor Mike Harrison)
Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen has died 10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Allen died on Saturday at the age of 46, according to funeral information posted online.
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday he and the Pentagon will comply with House Democrats' impeachment inquiry subpoena, but it'll be on their own schedule.
"We will do everything we can to cooperate with the Congress," Esper said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Just in the last week or two, my general counsel sent out a note — as we typically do in these situations — to ensure documents are retained."
Most of the U.S. troops in Syria are being moved out of the country as Turkish forces and their Arab allies push further into Kurdish territory than originally expected, Task & Purpose has learned.
Roughly 1,000 U.S. troops are withdrawing from Syria, leaving a residual force of between 100 and 150 service members at the Al Tanf garrison, a U.S. official said.
"I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday's edition of CBS News' "Face the Nation."'
More than 700 women and children affiliated with ISIS escape Kurdish prison camp after Turkish shelling
BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled en masse from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria on Sunday after shelling by Turkish forces in a five-day-old offensive, the region's Kurdish-led administration said.
Turkey's cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara's Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.
Turkey is facing threats of possible sanctions from the United States unless it calls off the incursion. Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.