The Turkish military is about to launch a major counterterror offensive against PKK-affiliated elements in northern Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced last Wednesday that Ankara would kick off an operation in a few days to clear People's Protection Units (YPG) from the eastern parts of the Euphrates.
"Our target can never be the U.S. troops, but the members of the terrorist organizations that are active in the region. I'm making it specifically clear." Erdoğan added.
Despite the Turkish president's clear statement, the Pentagon issued a provocative reaction.
"Unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party, particularly as U.S. personnel may be present or in the vicinity, is of grave concern. Any such actions would be unacceptable," said Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson.
Robertson's words were simply unfortunate as Ankara has never adopted such a policy nor planned such an attack in the region. All Turkey intends to do is to protect its people and state.
The scope and timing of the operation have not been announced yet. However, as Erdoğan said, it is at hand and Ankara is more than firm on hitting terrorist elements near its border sooner than later.
Naturally, the international community has already set its eyes on the looming operation and started worrying about a possible confrontation between Turkish and U.S. forces east of the Euphrates. It has been asked whether the two NATO allies, also known for their "strategic alliance," will clash on the ground in northeastern Syria. Erdoğan's statement, however, has already given the answer to that question.
The impending Turkish offensive is of utmost importance for Turkey's security as the PKK and its Syrian affiliates have posed a huge threat to Turkey's sovereignty and its people. For years, these non-state groups have been spreading fear across the entire region, fueling tensions and threatening the lives of innocent civilians including Arabs and Kurds.
Syria, since the civil war broke out in March 2011, has become a hub for many terrorist groups, the PKK in particular. The PKK-affiliated groups in Syria are militarily backed by the U.S., with weapons and various other supplies. Thus they could find a great opportunity to maintain a strong and active presence. These terrorist groups, namely the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the YPG, still continue their cooperation with the U.S., despite repeated warnings from Ankara.
Therefore, Ankara was forced to prepare the expected offensive as its peace and security have been intensely put at risk.
In such a tense atmosphere, where Turkish security concerns are deliberately ignored, the Turkish public and political parties should closely follow what's going on near their country's borders and pay attention to the operation as this is not a government issue nor a political maneuver but a concrete step to ensure the security of the country.