Turkey Masses Troops on Syrian Border Area Held by US

Report: 50 vehicles with troops and equipment crossed into Syria overnight
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 23, 2018 11:13 AM CST
As US Gets Ready to Leave Syria, Turkey Masses Troops
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting of a youth organization in Istanbul Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. Erdogan said Friday the United States decided to withdraw troops from Syria after he reassured President Trump that Turkey could eradicate the remnants of ISIS.   (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

Turkey is massing troops near a town in northern Syria held by a US-backed and Kurdish-led force, a war monitor and Turkish media said Sunday. The buildup comes even though Turkey said it would delay a promised offensive in eastern Syria in the wake of President Trump's decision to withdraw US troops earlier this week, reports the AP. On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he "deeply regrets" Trump's decision to pull US troops out of Syria and warned it could have dangerous consequences. Macron showered praise on US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit in the wake of Trump's unexpected move. "An ally should be reliable, coordinate with other allies. Mattis understood this," Macron said. Turkey, however, welcomed Trump's decision, as Ankara views the Kurdish militia at the heart of SDF as an extension of the insurgency within its borders.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to dislodge the Kurdish fighters from its border with Syria. Turkey already has troops in northwestern Syria and has backed Syrian fighters there to clear villages of ISIS militants and Kurdish fighters. Erdogan said he would delay the eastern Syria offensive and work on plans to clear ISIS from the region. On Sunday, the Turkish IHA news agency reported a convoy of Turkish troops—a commando unit—had been sent into Syria overnight. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the reinforcements were sent to the front line with Manbij, where US troops have been based. The Observatory said 50 vehicles crossed into Syria carrying troops and equipment. A rep for the Kurdish-led Manbij Military Council said Turkish reinforcements have arrived. "We are taking necessary measures to defend ourselves if we are attacked," he said without elaborating.

(Read more Turkey stories.)

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