Turkish-backed Syrian fighters have sent reinforcements to the front line along the northern Syrian areas controlled by Kurdish fighters, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Monday, days after Washington took an unexpected decision to withdraw troops from Syria.
The Hamza Division, a part of the Syrian rebels supported by Turkey, dispatched fighters and armoured vehicles to the border between the areas held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG) and the Syrian government forces, Abu Yazan, a commanding officer, told the agency.
He said the troops will take up important tasks during an expected Turkish military operation in the northern Syrian border city of Manbij.
“Our units headed out to contact regions” controlled by the YPG, Abu Yazan said.
A Turkish operation in Syria is expected to target some of the areas under the control of YPG fighters, who Ankara considers to be terrorists.
On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed his threats to target Kurdish fighters.
Turkey was in Syria “to return the freedom of our Arab brothers and sisters, to return the freedom of our Kurdish brothers and sisters”, Erdogan said during a speech in the capital, Ankara.
A Turkish military convoy arrived overnight on Monday at the border with Syria, with local media reporting that some vehicles had crossed it, AFP news agency reported.
In the past two years, Turkey has conducted two offensives into northern Syria, dubbed “Euphrates Shield” and “Olive Branch”.
President Donald Trump‘s surprise decision to withdraw the estimated 2,000 US troops from Syria on Wednesday has created shock among members of the Congress, including Republicans, as well as among Washington’s Western allies.
Erdogan’s spokesperson said on Monday that US military officials will come to Turkey this week to discuss coordination on Syria.
Washington has for years supported the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in Syria.
A senior Syrian Kurdish official said they were reaching out for help to protect the Kurdish-administered areas against a possible Turkish offensive following the US withdrawal.
“We will deal with whoever can protect the good and stability of this country,” the Associated Press news agency quoted Ilham Ahmed as saying on Monday.
Ahmed reportedly said they were in talks with Russia, the Syrian government and European countries to discuss ways to deal with the US withdrawal – without elaborating further.
SDF delegation in Moscow
Meanwhile, a delegation of the SDF arrived in Russia on Monday for talks.
Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst, said that Syrian Kurds are likely to turn to Moscow and Damascus after US forces leave the region.
“[Syrian] Kurds have a longtime relationship with Russia. They have an unofficial embassy in Moscow. They are likely to turn to Russia and possibly the Syrian regime for protection,” he told Al Jazeera from the Russian capital.
Ankara claims the YPG is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged attacks on Turkish soil since the 1980s as they sought autonomy.