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Turkey reinforces border with Syria as US troops poised to leave

This picture shows a Turkish military convoy in Kilis at the Syria border, on December 22, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The Turkish military has sent new reinforcements to frontline areas with US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, in what appears to be preparations for an anticipated campaign against the Kurdish militants after Washington announced a plan to withdraw its troops from the Arab country.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported that a Turkish military convoy with howitzers and artillery batteries as well as different units of armed forces has been deployed to the border district of Elbeyli in the south-central Turkish province of Kilis on Monday.

The private Ihlas News Agency reported that the military reinforcements would take place “gradually,” and that parts of the convoy had already entered Syria.

Turkish-language Hurriyet daily newspaper said the deployment commenced over the weekend with around 100 vehicles, and the troops had crossed into the al-Bab region of Syria’s northern province of Aleppo.

This picture shows a Turkish military convoy in Kilis at the Syria border on December 22, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

They then headed towards Jarabulus and Manbij districts, which are controlled by YPG militants.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

Military reinforcements have also been sent to Akcakale town and Ceylanpinar border district, which are both located in Turkey’s southeastern province of Sanliurfa.

The Turkish buildup comes in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision last week to withdraw American troops from Syria.

Some commanders in the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has YPG as its backbone, have described the Washington’s move as “a stab in the back.”

Syrian town of Manbij, which lies in mainly Arab territory west of the Euphrates, has been a major bone of contention between Ankara and Washington.

Turkey has complained over the slow implementation of a deal reached with the United States in June, which would see the YPG ousted from the town and moved back to the eastern bank of the river.

Trump tweeted on Sunday that he had a “long and productive” call with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which they discussed “the slow & highly coordinated” pullout of US troops from the area.

The Turkish presidency said in a statement that the two leaders had agreed to coordinate militarily and diplomatically to ensure the US pullout from Syria would not lead to an “authority vacuum.”

The Turkish military, with support from allied militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army, has launched two cross-border operations in northern Syria, dubbed “Euphrates Shield” and “Olive Branch”, against the YPG and Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

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