The international press on Wednesday discussed the military and civilian preparations of the residents of northern Syria to face the Turkish aggression and the threat of ISIS mercenaries in conjunction with the Turkish threats to attack northern and eastern Syria.
Abdi: We will attack Turkish forces if they enter Syria
The New York Times interviewed the Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mazloum Abdi, he said that their forces would not hesitate to respond to Turkish forces if they entered northern and eastern Syria.
"We will resist. We have been at war for seven years and we are able to continue the war for another seven years," Mazloum Abdi said in the interview.
Abdi stressed that the lack of clear policies in Washington complicate the situation. "There should be no ambiguity," he said.
Speaking of US forces that helped his troops fight ISIS as comrades in arms, Abdi said any rupture in the partnership could destabilize the region.
"We have fought with American forces to get rid of terrorism, and we are still in this ongoing battle."
He called on the Americans to "pressure their political and military leaders to stop the Turkish attack, which he said would lead to massacres."
Political analysts familiar with the plan said Turkey was determined to set up four bases or combat sites in a narrow area along the border and agreed to commit to limited action as a first stage.
"I expect Turkey to carry out a step-by-step incursion, then return to negotiate with the United States from a stronger position, and then, when it is in a better position, it will carry out a second and third operation. This is a gradual strategy," said Ozgur Unohisarshikli, director of the German Marshall Fund in Ankara.
Many argue that withdrawing about 1,000 US troops in northeastern Syria would open a vacuum that could be exploited by President Bashar al-Assad, his Russian and Iranian allies, or by ISIS.
But analysts fear that any redeployment of the SDF to fight Turkey in the north will affect the fight against ISIS.
US officials said SDF had already redeployed to the Turkish border.
"The ISIS threat is real," said Mazloum Abdi, stressing that the latter keeps sleeper cells throughout the region. His forces also oversee prisons and camps that house tens of thousands of ISIS mercenaries and their families.
Abdi said there had been no talks with the United States on the extradition of those prisoners to Turkey, describing the idea as "impossible."
Abdi said he would prefer the United States to remain in Syria until ISIS and its remnants are destroyed and a "complete political solution that guarantees the rights of all."
Several Pentagon officials confirmed there had been discussions about Erdogan's threats to invade northern Syria, but said they did not hint that Trump would ask US forces to step down and leave their allies in northern Syria vulnerable to attack.
Abdi says he prefers to work with the United States for a stable Syria, but his forces are ready to attack if Turkey launches an attack. "There will be a lot of resistance if they cross the border. We will not accept them on our soil in any way."
SDF fighters are ready to face the Turkish invasion
A report by the Wall Street Journal said that after the United States withdrew its troops from the border, SDF fighters would remain determined to resist any Turkish attack.
US forces have begun to withdraw from the Syrian-Turkish border, marking a major shift in US policy, as Washington pulls back from supporting a key partner in the war against ISIS before the Turkish attack on them.
The newspaper pointed out that it met with a fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces in Tel Arqam, "the point where the International Coalition was present before evacuating it a few days ago." As the fighter stands watching from his telescope the Turkish mobilizations, he says, “We are the children of the region and we will defend it.”
N Syria people go on sit-ins against a possible Turkish attack
As the Turkish army and its mercenaries rally on the Turkish-Syrian border to launch attacks on northern and eastern Syria, some US analysts and lawmakers fear the looming attack could lead to genocide of the civilian population.
At the same time, President Trump faced outrage in his country over his controversial decision this week to withdraw US special operations forces that were acting as a buffer force along the border.
The remarks seem to have done little to restrict Turkey or to ease the bipartisan fire from Capitol Hill. Key senators called on military and intelligence leaders to notify lawmakers privately to see exactly how much they have contributed to the president's decision.
Trump said he was keeping his promise in the campaign to end US military deployment in an expensive "eternal war" abroad and that countries in the region should settle their differences. Critics say the withdrawal is giving up a key ally, strengthening US foes such as Iran, Syria and Russia, and sending a message that the United States is an unreliable ally.
There were also signs on Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was communicating with the SDF to renew the alliance, a development that would strengthen his grip on the country.
Civilians in northeast Syria have reportedly begun planning large-scale sit-ins near the border with Turkey.
Retired US commanders have expressed dismay at Trump's decision. They said that the SDF, which has spent years fighting alongside the United States against ISIS and has suffered heavy casualties, deserves our best.
"For me, the general feeling is disappointment," said retired Army General Joseph Votel, who stepped down this year as head of US Central Command. "Disappointment is that we are failing our partners, perhaps adding to the humanitarian catastrophe in this region. We are relinquishing a hard-won strategic advantage that could produce a political solution to this troubled region."
Military commanders are particularly concerned about the possible return of ISIS. The SDF is responsible for detaining thousands of ISIS mercenaries, and there are growing fears that these mercenaries could be released or escaped from prison as the Turkish offensive begins.
"We must remember ISIS at first," General Votel said in a speech at the Atlantic Council. "They got a lot of their fighting power by escaping a lot of their commanders from jails in places like Mosul and elsewhere. Thousands of elements joined immediately afterwards. In the defeat of the "caliphate", the material part of it, we certainly did not get rid of the ideologies that drive them. "
Turkey is continuing its aggression
The Guardian said in a report that Turkey intends to move forward in the attack on northern Syria despite the confusion over US policy after officials began to backtrack on Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from the region.
Turkish Vice President Fuad Oktay said Turkey would implement its own national security plans and would not "be afraid of threats."
The Trump administration appeared to backtrack on a promise the president made to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a telephone call on Sunday that he would withdraw US troops from northeastern Syria.
The SDF said late Tuesday night that Turkish forces had already attacked one of their forces' points near the border and it was one of the places where US troops withdrew from on Monday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
After the White House announced that the Turkish offensive was imminent and that U.S. troops would move away, Trump was heavily criticized by Democrats and Republicans, including close allies such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - on which Trump relies as a bulwark against impeachment charges.
Critics have warned that an accelerated withdrawal could open a new front in Syria's complex war, reviewing gains against ISIS and a betrayal of a military partner who lost 11,000 fighters in that campaign.
The criticism prompted a change in Trump's tone on Tuesday morning. He said on Twitter: "We may be leaving Syria, but in no way did not abandon the Kurds, they are special people and wonderful fighters."
"Trump sent several messages to his Turkish counterpart," said Nicholas Danforth, a visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund, which studies US-Turkish relations. "Erdogan must decide how much pressure on his luck before he provokes a backlash from the US Congress or even Trump himself."
"Trump's unpredictability is a double-edged sword for Ankara. Turkey's regional gains in Syria will be immediate and clear. The full cost of antagonizing Washington will appear more slowly." Danforth said.