Turkey on Wednesday warned it will launch a new operation in Syria within days against an American-backed Kurdish militia that Ankara considers a terrorist group, risking renewed tensions with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally the United States.
Mattis also used the informal session to announce that small units from among the estimated 2,000 USA troops in Syria would move north to set up observation posts near the Turkey-Syria border.
"We will begin our operation to free the east of the Euphrates [river] from the separatist organisation within a few days", he told MPs. "Our target is never US soldiers", Erdogan said in a speech televised live.
"This step will allow for the path to a political solution to be opened and for healthier cooperation", Erdogan added. They work extremely closely with the SDF the facilitate air strikes against ISIS, establish local military councils, and help to clear mines, IEDs, and unexploded ordinance from liberated areas to allow displaced Syrians to return. Turkey regards the YPG as an extension of the PKK militant group, which launched an insurgency against the state in southeast Turkey in 1984.
The Pentagon says it has about 2,000 troops in Syria.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday (6 May) said Turkey would launch cross-border offensives, like previous military operations in Syria, in the "new era" after snap polls on 24 June.
"We know that the aim of the radar and observation posts set up by the United States is not to protect our country from terrorists, but to protect the terrorists from Turkey", Erdogan said.
Elizabeth Teoman, analyst at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), said Erdogan may be threatening the attacks "to compel a change in USA policy regarding the United States observation posts along the Syrian-Turkish border".
America's support for the Kurdish YPG forces has strained relations with Turkey, which considers the YPG to be part of a terrorist group.
In March, another Turkish offensive against the YPG affected the fight against Islamic State and led to an "operational pause" in eastern Syria.
Other analysts, like Kyle Orton, who is a Syria researcher in London, believe that while Turkey is capable of carrying out an attack in northeastern Syria, Erdogan's rhetoric has generally been cautious regarding Syria, especially in areas where there is a USA presence.
Three observation posts have now been set up, a USA official told Reuters on Wednesday.
"There has been a delaying tactic undeniably used in Manbij, and right now it is still being used", he said, adding that the threat from IS no longer existed in Syria.
There are American forces with the SDF east of the Euphrates as well as in the flashpoint city of Manbij, which is west of the river. "The fact that we have deep differences in perception with the United States is no secret", he said. "But we do not say that YPG is the same as PKK".
Erdogan said Turkey's target has always been members of the terror group.
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