Turkish troops started crossing into Syria early Wednesday, in what appears to be the beginning of a threatened invasion of an area controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, The Associated Press reports. The SDF, the main U.S. ally in the regional fight against the Islamic State, guards about 11,000 ISIS prisoners in more than 20 makeshift prison camps, and U.S. officials told The Washington Post that if the Kurds abandon the prisons to defend their territory from Turkey’s invasion, the U.S. doesn’t have the forces or mandate to intervene if ISIS militants escape.
Turkey’s incursion was preceded by President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the reason late Sunday night, essentially giving Turkey a green light, though Trump later reacted to the swift condemnation of his pullback by saying he would “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it crossed some unspecified line. Navy Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Post that Turkey would be “responsible for freeing thousands of ISIS fighters” if it invaded.