White House says Turkey will soon launch Syria operation

White House says Turkey will soon launch Syria operation
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The White House on Sunday night said Turkey will soon be launching a military operation in northeastern Syria and that U.S. troops will no longer be "in the immediate area" when it happens.

"Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial 'Caliphate,' will no longer be in the immediate area," White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Americans with COVID-19 immunity may lead US back to work Trump shakes up White House communications team The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Debruyne Says Global Response Platform Needed; Navarro Saw It Coming MORE said in a statement.

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The announcement comes hours after President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Overnight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license MORE held a phone call with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in which the two reportedly discussed the conflict and agreed to a meeting in Washington in November.

More than 1,000 U.S. troops are currently deployed in northeastern Syria, where they work closely with the Kurdish YPG, which leads the Syrian Democratic Forces in the region. The Kurds have proven to be among Washington's most effective allies in the fight against ISIS.

Erdoğan has repeatedly expressed frustration with Washington's close alliance with the Kurds along his country's border with Syria, linking them to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist organization in Turkey. Washington also labels the PKK a terrorist group, but not the YPG.

Turkey has pushed for a so-called safe zone that would extend the country's border deeper into Syrian territory. The U.S., in an effort to reduce tensions, has instead been working on establishing a "security mechanism" with its Kurdish allies. But the announcement on Sunday took the SDF by surprise, and the military group released a statement warning of consequences if the U.S. pulls out and allows Turkey to invade.

"But Erdogan's threats are aimed to change the security mechanism into a mechanism of death, displace our people & change the stable & secure region into a zone of conflict and permanent war," the SDF tweeted, warning that a Turkish military invasion could erase gains made against ISIS and make Syria "a permanent conflict area."

Grisham in her Sunday statement added the U.S. will not be holding any more ISIS fighters, and that "Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial 'Caliphate' by the United States."

U.S European Command tweeted Saturday that Washington was working "to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns."