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Turkish president threatens to target US-backed Kurdish fighters

U.S. forces, accompanied by Kurdish People's Protection Units fighters, drive their armored vehicles on April 28, 2017, near the northern Syrian village of Darbasiyah, on the border with Turkey. (DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised Tuesday that Turkey had plans to target U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.

Why is Turkey targeting the Kurds?

Turkey has been fighting a Turkish group called the PKK inside its own borders since 1978. The PKK is fighting for Turkish autonomy, but often uses acts of violence and terror to do so.

Both the EU and the U.S. classify the PKK as a terrorist organization, but they differentiate between the PKK and other Kurdish groups. Other Kurdish groups in Iraq and Syria have proven themselves to be invaluable allies in the fight against the Islamic State. Turkey, however, views all Kurdish groups as equally as culpable as the PKK.

Turkey has been targeting position in Syria held by U.S.-allied Y.P.G. forces. Some of the Syrian rebels fighting against the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad have joined Turkish forces in attacking the Kurds. This assault has already forced Kurdish forces to retreat across the Euphrates river.

These attacks have also pulled Kurdish fighters from the front lines of fighting the Islamic State, in order to defend their homes.

Turkey had threatened in June to attack the town of Manbij, which had at that time been controlled by the Kurds. In an effort to alleviate the situation, the U.S. agreed to jointly control Manbij with Turkish forces, and Kurdish forces agreed to withdraw. Manbij is on the west side of the Euphrates.

What did Erdogan say on Tuesday?

“Soon, we will descend on them with more comprehensive and effective [strength],” Erdogan said to leaders from his own party on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

According to the Turkish state Anadolu news agency, Turkish artillery targeted Kurdish forces in the Zor Moghar village in Aleppo on Sunday.

Turkey has been a lackluster ally in the war against the Islamic State. Initially Turkey gave ISIS fighters safe passage and refused to join the fight against the terror organization at all. That changed in 2015 when 32 people were killed by an Islamic State suicide bomber in the Turkish town of Suruc, but Turkey still seems more interested in fighting “terrorist” Kurds than it does in demolishing the Islamic State.

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