Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Friday that an operation against the so-called capital of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is being planned.
Çavuşoğlu said possible partnerships in the operation against ISIL in Raqqa are being discussed with other countries. “We can easily root out ISIL with the right groups,” he said. He also added that Manbij should be cleansed of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and that the Turkish government is debating the issue with the US.
Turkey’s Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar also said on Friday during a visit to the border town of Kilis that with the takeover of al-Bab, the goals of the operation have been reached in the Euphrates Shield operation.
Regarding the next target in northern Syria, on Feb. 12 President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that after taking control of al-Bab, Turkish troops and Free Syrian Army forces would continue on to Manbij and Raqqa.
“We have been trying to cleanse the region of terrorists. Al-Bab is almost finished. Manbij and Raqqa are next. Al-Bab is not our final target. Our final target is to clear the region of Daesh [ISIL]. The real center of Daesh is Raqqa,” Erdoğan said during a press conference at Istanbul Atatürk Airport before departing for a trip to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Erdoğan said Turkish troops and Syrian rebel allies had entered the ISIL-held al-Bab, adding that its capture was “just a matter of time.”
Manbij is under the control of YPG forces, while Raqqa is in ISIL territory.
“Our target is to create a four to five thousand-square-kilometer terrorist-free zone. By creating a safe area we want to stop the flow of refugees and asylum seekers, and by establishing settlement areas we want to return people living in camps in Turkey to their land,” added Erdoğan, stating that he had already shared Turkey’s plan to establish new cities in the area with US President Donald Trump and other coalition forces including Germany.
Turkey has lost 76 troops since the beginning of Operation Euphrates Shield on Aug. 24 in northern Syria.