Turkey Delays Military Operation on Syria Over U.S. Pullout

(Bloomberg) -- Turkey is postponing its planned military operation to strike U.S.-backed Kurdish militants in neighboring Syria as American troops withdraw, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

“Our phone call with President Trump, along with contacts between our diplomats and security officials and statements by the United States, have led us to wait a little longer,” Erdogan told an exporters’ group in Ankara on Friday. “Obviously, this is not an open-ended waiting period.”

The speech comes two days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to pull out of Syria, where U.S. troops are fighting Islamic State alongside Kurdish-dominated forces led by a group called the YPG. Turkey says the YPG is an extension of a terrorist organization.

The U.S. alliance with the YPG has been a source of frustration for NATO ally Turkey, which deems the militant group a front for Kurdish separatists it’s been fighting since 1984. Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw disappointed the Kurds but was met with cautious optimism in Ankara, where officials said the decision would likely serve Turkish interests.

About a week before the Trump announcement, Erdogan said he would soon send his army into an area to the east of the Euphrates river in Syria, where U.S. troops and Kurdish militants are stationed.

After the U.S. exit, Turkish forces will fight both Islamic State and Kurdish militants, Erdogan said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.