Türkiye gave an answer for the recent Istanbul terror attack by destroying targets of the terrorist organization in northern Iraq and Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Tuesday, vowing to root out terrorism posing a threat to national security.
"We gave our answer to the vile attack that cost the lives of six innocents by razing the terrorist targets in northern Iraq and Syria," Erdoğan said at an opening ceremony in northeastern Artvin province.
He said that Türkiye would "soon" launch a ground operation in Syria against the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist group, following air raids.
"We have been bearing down on the terrorists for a few days with our planes, cannons and guns," Erdoğan said in his speech. "God willing, we will root out all of them as soon as possible, together with our tanks, our soldiers."
"We know the identity, location and track record of the terrorists. We also know very well who patronizes, arms and encourages terrorists," Erdoğan said.
Türkiye has done its part by respecting every agreement on the security of its border with Syria, he said.
"Hopefully we will root out all the terrorists as soon as possible," Erdoğan stressed.
Early Sunday, Türkiye launched Operation Claw-Sword, a cross-border aerial campaign against the terrorist group YPG/PKK, which has illegal hideouts across the Iraqi and Syrian borders where they plan attacks on Turkish soil.
The country's air operation followed the Nov. 13 terror attack on Istanbul's crowded Istiklal Street that killed six people and left 81 injured.
Previously, President Erdoğan on Monday signaled a ground operation in northern Iraq and northern Syria to eliminate the terrorist threat, adding that Türkiye will not remain silent against terrorism.
"This is not limited to just an air operation," Erdoğan stressed, adding that the relevant units will do their consultations and take steps accordingly.
"We will make those who disturb us on our territory pay," he said on Monday, adding that consultations were ongoing "to decide the level of force that should be used by our ground forces."
Türkiye has carried out "the largest and most comprehensive and effective" air operation in Iraq and Syria against the terrorists, the defense minister also said earlier in the day.
"Operation Claw-Sword, launched on Nov. 19 in northern areas of Iraq and Syria, has been the largest, most comprehensive and most effective air operation against the terrorist organization in the recent period," Hulusi Akar said during his address in Parliament in the capital Ankara.
Akar said that the operation only targeted the terrorists. "With the operation, the dens of terrorists were destroyed and a great blow was dealt to the traitors who targeted the security of our country and nation," he added.
"For us, there is no ethnic, religious or sectarian discrimination between terrorism and terrorists. Our only target is terrorists. Where the terrorist is, there our target is," he stressed.
Türkiye sees the PKK and the YPG as the same terrorist group and has called on countries, especially the United States, to cut all support to the terrorists, Akar reiterated.
Since July 24, 2015, a total of 36,854 terrorists have been eliminated in Türkiye, northern Iraq and northern Syria, including 3,585 killed since the start of 2022, he said.
The PKK is a designated terrorist organization in the U.S., Türkiye and the European Union, and Washington's support for its Syrian affiliate has been a major strain on bilateral relations with Ankara. The PKK/YPG has controlled much of northeastern Syria after the forces of Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad withdrew in 2012. The U.S. primarily partnered with PKK/YPG terrorists in northeastern Syria in its fight against the Daesh terrorist group. On the other hand, Türkiye strongly opposed the PKK/YPG's presence in northern Syria.
Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the U.S. has provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the PKK/YPG, despite its NATO ally's security concerns. Underlining that one cannot support one terrorist group to defeat another, Türkiye conducted its counterterrorism operations, throughout which it has managed to remove a significant number of terrorists from the region.