ANKARA - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned the United States to withdraw any American forces from the Syrian town of Manbij, vowing Turkish troops would expand a cross-border military operation to the key strategic hub.

Erdogan blamed Washington for the presence in Manbij of fighters from the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and its Democratic Union Party (PYD) political wing, which Ankara sees as terror groups.

Turkey on January 20 launched a major operation aimed at ousting YPG forces from their enclave of the northwestern town of Afrin. However moving east to Manbij - where unlike Afrin there is a US military presence - would mark a major escalation.

Accusing Washington of breaking past promises, Erdogan said: “They (Americans) told us they will pull out of Manbij. They said they will not stay in Manbij... Why don’t you just go?”

“Who did you bring there? PYD. Who did you bring there? YPG. Who did you bring there? PKK,” he said.

Turkey considers YPG as Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has waged an insurgency since 1984 and is designated a terrorist outfit by Ankara and its Western allies.

“And then you tell us not to come to Manbij! We will come to Manbij to return it to its original owners,” he added. Turkey considers towns like Manbij to be originally Arab-majority territory whose ethnic balance was upset in favour of the Kurds during the seven-year civil war. Erdogan also accused US President Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama of failing to tell the truth over US support for the YPG.

“They told us many things but unfortunately they did not tell the truth,” Erdogan said. “Mr Obama did not tell the truth and now Mr Trump is heading down the same path.” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called on the government to strip Turkey’s main medical association of the adjective “Turkish” in its name after it vehemently opposed the military operation in Syria.

Erdogan accused members of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) of backing “terrorists” after its central council came out against the campaign in Syria against Kurdish militia launched on January 20.

The council had said “war is a man-made public health problem” and called for peace. All of its 11 members were detained, although they have subsequently been granted conditional release.

The Turkish leader has repeatedly made clear that he regards the so-called operation Olive Branch as a “national struggle” and that opposing it from the sidelines amounts to treachery.

“Having the word ‘Turkish’ in a name is something granted by the cabinet. And there it should be removed quickly,” Erdogan told reporters in Ankara.

He said the same step should also be made with the Turkish Bar Association (TBB), the country’s main grouping of lawyers, which has on occasion been bitterly critical of Erdogan.

He said the two associations “are not on our side in our struggle to protect the fatherland,” he said, quoted by the Anadolu news agency.

“We have situations, on the contrary, where some are defending terrorists and on their side,” Erdogan said.

Turkey regards the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and its Democratic Union Party (PYD) political wing as terror groups although this position is not shared by its Western allies.

The TTB association has over 83,000 members representing 80 percent of Turkey’s doctors.

Authorities launched an investigation into its members last week, accusing them of “propaganda for a terror organisation” and “inciting hatred and hostility”.

The head of the TBB lawyers’ association Metin Feyzioglu - who in 2014 gave a critical speech that famously prompted a furious Erdogan to walk out of a ceremony - said he had listened to the president’s remarks with “amazement”.

“It’s quite clear that Mr President has been wrongly informed,” he said, insisting that the TBB was “with the soldiers and the people”.

He said while the government could remove words from a sign “they will absolutely not be able to wipe us from the hearts of the Turkish people”.