Turkey's Army Edges Closer to Attacking Syrian Kurd Stronghold

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and USA counterpart Donald Trump agreed in a phone conversation on Sunday to prevent a "power vacuum" in Syria after American ground forces withdraw, the United States president and the Turkish presidency said.

Trump stunned his allies and the U.S. establishment on Wednesday when he ordered the withdrawal of 2,000 American ground forces in Syria.

The Turkish presidency said in a statement that the two leaders had agreed to coordinate militarily and diplomatically to ensure the U.S. pullout from Syria would not lead to an "authority vacuum".

Kurdish affairs analyst Mutlu Civiroglu said the U.S. withdrawal, announced abruptly by Trump last week, would open the way "for Turkey to start its operations against the Kurds, and a bloody war will begin".

Trump noted Sunday that he had a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the situation in Syria and his pledges to support anti-ISIS efforts.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the reinforcements were sent to the front line with Manbij, where US troops have been based.

He said: "I call on everyone not to forget what we owe them".

The state broadcaster broadcast video from the outskirts of Manbij, located on the western flank of the Euphrates River that splits northern Syria roughly into two halves.

The move brought withering criticism from fellow Republicans, Democrats and global allies.

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"Mr. Trump asked us, 'Would you clean IS from there?' " Erdogan said, referring to his conversation with Trump on the IS threat in Syria.

"Our units headed out to contact regions" controlled by the YPG, Abu Yazan said. "To be an ally is to fight shoulder to shoulder".

Allies around the world have been stunned by Mattis' departure, having seen the former general as a reliable supporter of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and other long-standing partnerships.

US troops will leave under the auspices of a new Pentagon chief set to start next month, after Jim Mattis resigned from the post citing key differences, including on Syria, with the often impulsive Trump. "The SDF is fighting against the terrorism that fomented attacks against Paris and elsewhere".

Trump, reportedly annoyed at Mattis' criticism, booted him out early, opting to promote the deputy secretary to acting secretary instead of waiting to nominate and receive approval for a replacement.

"We have beaten them and we have beaten them badly", Trump said Wednesday in a video post on Twitter.

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters are preparing to deploy in eastern Syria alongside Turkish troops once American forces withdraw, a spokesman said Monday, adding that his forces have begun massing on the front line of a town held by Kurdish-led forces.

The Turkish president also wished a happy new year to the United States president and American people.

In turn, Trump explained his decision by saying that the mission in the country has been accomplished and the Daesh terrorist group has been defeated.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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