Up to 15,000 Syrian rebels are ready to join a Turkish military offensive against US-backed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, but no date has been set for the operation, a spokesman for the main Turkish-backed Syrian rebel group said on Thursday, according to Reuters.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday that Turkey would launch the military operation in a few days, targeting a border region east of the Euphrates River that is held by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish militia.
The announcement prompted a sharp rebuke from the Pentagon, which said any unilateral military action into northeast Syria would be unacceptable.
The United States has been supporting the YPG in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) insurgents since 2015. Following cross-border shelling from Turkey into Kurdish-controlled territory two months ago, US forces have set up three military observation posts near the border.
Turkey says the YPG is a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the state in southeastern Turkey for more than three decades.
Turkey has already swept YPG fighters from west of the Euphrates in military campaigns over the past two years, but has not gone east of the river — partly to avoid direct confrontation with US forces.
But Erdoğan’s patience with Washington over Syria — specifically a deal to clear the YPG from the town of Manbij, just west of the Euphrates — seems to have worn thin.
The spokesman for the National Army, a Turkish-backed rebel force aimed at unifying disparate factions in northwest Syria, said on Thursday that there was no set date for the operation, which will start from both Syrian and Turkish territory.
“The battle will be launched simultaneously from several fronts,” Maj. Youssef Hamoud told Reuters.
“It will be in Manbij and Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn,” he said, referring to towns about 200 km [125 miles] apart near Syria’s northern border.
Hamoud said the operation from Turkey may begin a few days before the move from within Syria.