A Turkish official said that Turkey’s army needs just a few days to be ready for a ground incursion into northern Syria, reported Reuters.
Turkish forces have been bombarding Kurdish armed groups across the border in North and East Syria since 19 November. Howitzers fired daily from Turkey have been hitting Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), while Turkish jets have carried out airstrikes, and the Turkish government have been repeatedly announcing that a ground operation is on the cards.
“Turkey’s army needs just a few days to be ready for a ground incursion into northern Syria and such a decision may come at a cabinet meeting on Monday”, Turkish officials told Reuters.
Stating that “the Turkish Armed Forces needs just a few days to become almost fully ready,” the official added that Syrian rebel fighters allied to Turkey were also being prepared for such an operation.
“It depends only on the president giving the order,” said the official, indicating that it will not take long for the operation to begin.
Turkey will inevitably target Manbij, Kobani and Tel Rifat as an effort to link territories in northers Syria under Turkish control, according to the official.
Ankara had been in contact with Moscow and Washington about its military activities, the source added, although Washington shows serious concerns that a ground operation would affect the struggle against the Islamic State (ISIS).
Turkey sees the YPG, which has formed the backbone of US-led coalition fighting against the ISIS in Syria, as being linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a threat to its national security.
Ankara’s most recent attack into Kurdish-held territories in Syria started after a bomb attack in Istanbul earlier this month for which the Turkish authorities blamed Kurdish groups, despite repeated statements from them denying responsibility.
Following the Turkish attacks on 19 November, the US Department of State and Russia have both urged de-escalation in Syria.
However, another Turkish official also told Reuters that all the preparations are complete, adding that it is now a political decision.
Russia supports the Assad regime, but at the same time it does not want the Kurdish forces to have close relations with the US.
The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey aims to end the civil war in Syria, and is carrying out the process with the opposition.
The Turkish police have arrested twenty-four people in relation to the Istanbul bombing, including Ahlam Albashir, who planted the bomb on 13 November, and the brother of Bilal Hassan, a fugitive suspect was also arrested in Bulgaria while crossing the border from Turkey, reported Bianet.
“It is out of the question for the operations to be limited just to an air campaign,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week, signalling a cross-border ground offensive into northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.