Speaking at a news conference today, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hyped his military’s progress in their invasion of northern Syria, claiming troops were near the center of the ISIS city of al-Bab, and could quickly finish a fight that’s been ongoing for over a month.
After that, Erdogan says, the goal is to “cleanse” the entire border of ISIS, and that this will end with the capture of the ISIS capital city of Raqqa. Erdogan is said to have recently spoken with top US officials, including President Trump, about joint action against Raqqa.
The comments are noteworthy in a few ways, however. Turkish officials had long said that the immediate aftermath of al-Bab would be an invasion of Manbij, a city controlled by US-backed Kurdish forces. This was no longer mentioned, and instead the suggestion was that it was straight into the Raqqa Province.
The invasion of the Raqqa Province is potentially complex for Turkey, whose control at this point stops at the Euphrates River. The US has been backing Kurdish operations against Raqqa, something Turkey has ruled out participating in. Though the US is said to be open to cooperation with Turkey, it’s not clear how the two operations will be squared.