Will Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan follow through with threats to send Turkish troops against the United States’ Kurdish allies in Syria? The question has grown ever more pressing since the Pentagon’s swift and stern response to Erdogan’s vow yesterday to “start the operation to clear the east of the Euphrates from separatist terrorists in a few days.” Although Erdogan emphasized that a Turkish incursion would not target US military personnel in any way, it remains unclear how the US would respond if Turkey waded in, raising the specter of confrontation between the NATO allies.
The Pentagon responded soon after Erdogan made his comments. “Unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party, particularly as US personnel may be present or in the vicinity, is of grave concern,” said Pentagon spokesman Commander Sean Robertson. “We would find any such actions unacceptable.” He warned of giving the Islamic State breathing space in an apparent reference to Turkey’s operation in January against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin.