Turkish tanks are sent to the border with Syria. -AFP
Turkey has boosted its forces on the Syrian border ahead of a long-threatened incursion that could target Kurdish-led forces allied to the US. Troops would cross into Syria "shortly", a presidential aide said. Turkey wants to create a "safe zone" cleared of a Kurdish militia that will also house some of Turkey's 3.6 million Syrian refugees.
Donald Trump has withdrawn US troops in the area in a controversial decision widely condemned at home and abroad. He again defended his move on Tuesday, saying the Kurds had not been abandoned, calling them "special".
The Kurds were key US allies in defeating the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) in Syria. But Turkey regards the Kurdish militia that dominates the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as a terrorist group. The US pullout was seen as paving the way for an offensive.
Convoys of trucks with armoured personnel carriers and tanks were seen heading to the Turkish border town of Akcakale on Tuesday night. Images of buses carrying personnel were shown by state news agency Anadolu. Turkey is planning to create a 32km (20-mile) deep "safe zone" running for 480km (300 miles) along the Syrian side of the border Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish president's director of communications, said Turkish forces would cross the border shortly to "neutralize a long-standing threat against Turkish citizens". He said Kurdish militia fighters could either "defect or we will have [to] stop them from disrupting our counter-IS efforts".
Initial indications suggest a limited incursion by Turkey along a 100km stretch of the border between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain. It is a sparsely populated, mostly Arab, area and it is unclear what conflict with Kurdish forces would take place.
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