On December 18, the day before U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a full withdrawal of American troops from Syria — on the grounds that the U.S. “had defeated ISIS” — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey was mounting a new incursion into northern Syria.
The same day, December 18, Erdogan gave a speech in which he said:
“We officially announced last week that we would start a military operation on the east of Euphrates. And we did it… We discussed these things with Mr. Trump too. He gave us positive responses… Until the last terrorist in the region becomes ineffective, we will rake through the Syrian territories inch by inch… We will breathe down their necks.
“The forces that went to Syria with the excuse of [fighting] ISIS still stay there, although such a threat no longer exists. I am saying it once again that we will not allow a terror corridor that is being tried to be established along our border. We already carried out three operations. Now it is time for the east of the Euphrates…
“We carried out Operation Olive Branch in Afrin and recently [another military operation on the Iraqi Yazidi region of] Sinjar. Now we are burying the terrorists in the wells that they have dug. We have spoken with Mr. Trump. The terrorists should go to the east of Euphrates. If they don’t, we will send them there because the terror corridor disturbs us. Since we and the U.S. are strategic partners, we need to do what is required.”