Turkey is dispatching hundreds of more soldiers to Syria to reinforce its first major US-backed incursion of its conflict-ridden southern neighbor.
A military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 300 special troops from the 11th Command Brigade departed Cardak airbase in the southwestern province of Denizli to the Syrian border on Thursday, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The source, however, did not provide any information whether they had crossed into Syria, and where in northern Syria they would be deployed.
On August 24, the Turkish air force and special ground forces kicked off Operation Euphrates Shield inside Syria in a declared bid to support the Free Syrian Army militants and rid the border area of Daesh terrorists and fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Democratic Union Party (PYD).
The offensive was launched in coordination with the US-led military coalition, which has purportedly been fighting Daesh extremists since 2014.
The incursion was the first major Turkish military intervention in Syria, which drew strong condemnation from the Syrian government for violating the Arab country’s sovereignty.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on November 29 that the Turkish army marched into Syria to end the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, whom he accused of terrorism and causing the deaths of thousands.
The remarks caused consternation in the Kremlin, with Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov demanding Erdogan to clarify anti-Assad goals in Syria.
The Turkish leader backtracked on the comments two days later, asserting that the offensives there are aimed only at terrorists.
“The aim of the Operation Euphrates Shield is not any country or person, but only terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said in a speech at the presidential palace in Ankara on December 1.
He added, “No one should doubt this issue that we have uttered over and over, and no one should comment on it in another fashion or try to derail it.”