Middle East NATO

Turkey’s Erdogan Says He’s Ready to Risk Confrontation With US

A defiant Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Friday that he’s prepared to risk confrontation with the United States over Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria, vowing to next target a Kurdish-held town where U.S. Special Forces are stationed.

Speaking to members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara, a belligerent Erdogan shrugged off U.S. calls for Turkey to limit the incursion launched a week ago, saying the next town to be targeted after the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, where Turkish tanks have been grinding through winter mud, will be Manbij, raising the possibility of American troops being drawn inadvertently into the bruising fight between Turks and Syrian Kurds.

The Reuters news agency reports that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Saturday the United States needs to withdraw from northern Syria’s Manbij region immediately, suggesting that an attack might be imminent.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump expressed concerns in a phone call with Erdogan about the Turkish offensive aimed at ousting Kurdish militiamen the U.S. sees as allies in the battle against the Islamic State terror group. Trump urged him to limit the incursion and to avoid civilian casualties. The U.S. president, though, acknowledged Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, according to Turkish officials, who say that Trump asked Erdogan “not to criticize the U.S.”

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Jamie Dettmer