Turkey is planning to attack North-east Syria’s Kurdish forces in a surprising move that may seem sudden and confusing to many. Here’s what you need to know about this developing story.

It started with President Trump pulling out US troops from North-East Syria

US President Donald Trump had spoken to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on a phone call last Sunday, shortly after which he issued a change in policy that was to cover for US troops being moved away from the North-East Syrian border. The region is inhabited by Kurdish YPG militia, who have been allies of US for a very long time. A few days later, Turkey bombed the Syrian border at Ras al Ain, initiating its military operation in the area.

Turkey wants to send Syrian refugees back to their country and eliminate border threats

One of Turkey’s goals with this operation is to drive the potential military threat of Kurdish YPG forces away from their border. According to Anakara’s officials, the country also wants to establish a ‘safe zone’, a space inside Syria where it can relocate 2 million Syrian refugees that fled to Turkey during war. However, the Turkish President has recently been talking about delving deeper into Syria, beyond the 20 mile safe zone previously discussed.

Turkey could unravel Kurd’s plan for autonomy in the area…

The Syrian Democratic Forces led by Kurds have control areas across northern and eastern Syria, helped by the US-led coalition against Islamic State, where they set up their own governing bodies in pursuit of autonomy. These plans could crumble with Turkey’s advances as they would result in mass displacement if US fully pulls out its troops from the area.

…and also move in on Assad’s presidency in Syria

A Turkish incursion could also mean that area goes from occupation of a non-hostile force to Turkey and rebels that have sought to topple Assad before.

International outrage on Trump’s decision, UN implores Turkey to cease fire

Although the United States warned Turkey at the UN of facing potential “consequences” if its assault against Kurdish militias in northeast Syria brought harm to vulnerable populations or provide Islamic State with an opportunity for revival in the area, US Republicans have not hesitated to show their anger at Trump’s decision to move troops away, and no public support has been offered by Turkey’s western allies in lieu of their decision. In addition to this, the UN Security Council have called for Turkey to halt its offensive against the Syrian Kurdish forces.