(WASHINGTON) — Turkey is set to invade Syria, as the country had been threatening in recent months, with the U.S. saying it will remove all of its forces from the “immediate area,” according to the White House.
The move is likely to put the Kurdish forces that helped the U.S. defeat ISIS in peril. Turkey considers the Kurdish forces — the PKK and YPG — terrorist organizations.
The news came late Sunday after President Donald Trump spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone earlier in the day.
“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” the White House said in a statement late Sunday. “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.”
The White House also confirmed that Turkey will take possession of all captured ISIS fighters from the past two years.
“The United States Government has pressed France, Germany, and other European nations, from which many captured ISIS fighters came, to take them back, but they did not want them and refused,” the U.S. said in it statement. “The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer.”
Trump and Erdogan agreed to meet at the White House in November, Turkish state media reported, though the White House did not mention that in its statement.
Negotiators from the U.S. and Turkey had reached an agreement on Aug. 7 to create a safe zone in northeastern Syria in order to secure the territory once held by the Islamic State.
The deal came after Erdogan had threatened to take up an offensive against the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces that had helped eliminate ISIS.
But the agreement was only a stopgap with Erdogan repeating those calls in recent weeks.
It’s unclear if the U.S. will remove forces from Syria entirely, or what the “immediate area” might encompass.
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