- Post withdrawal the Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, launched Operation Peace Spring
- Turkey says the operation aims to clear the region of YPG/PKK terrorists.
- The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), was Washington’s main ally in Syria in the fight against ISIL.
- In recent years, they have expanded their control in northern and eastern Syria, in a vast area stretching 480km (300 miles) from the Euphrates River to the Iraq border.
- Turkey, which is fighting a violent Kurdish insurgency led by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in its Kurdish territories, sees an empowered YPG and a Kurdish autonomous government across the border a growing security threat to itself.
PKK (Kurdish: Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê)
- It is a Kurdish far-left militant and political organization based in Turkey and Iraq.
- Since 1984 the PKK has been involved in an armed conflict with the Turkish state (with a two-year cease-fire during 2013–2015), with the initial aim of achieving an independent Kurdish state, later changing it to a demand for equal rights and Kurdish autonomy in Turkey
USA’s Pledge to protect SDF
- In August 2019, the US military vowed to shelter the SDF from a Turkish attack, agreed to a “security mechanism” with Ankara, under which Kurdish forces would be pulled back from the Turkey-Syria border and a “safe zone” would be set up for the return of some of the 3.6 million refugees currently in Turkey.
- Following the agreement, the SDF destroyed YPG “fighting positions” in northeast Syria, before beginning to pull back from near the border.
But Ankara, increasingly unnerved by the Kurdish presence near its border, has long accused Washington of taking “too long” to act on the security deal, and Erdogan announced an imminent “air and ground” operation to clear the border region of “terrorists”.
What Turkey intends to do?
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s plan is to carve out a buffer between the border and the Rojava, which will be controlled by pro-Turkish Syrian rebels.
- He also plans to resettle some Syrian refugees here. In its previous intervention, Turkey had already pushed the YPG out of Afrin, a border town.
Why American withdrawal is advantage Turkey and disadvantage Kurds?
The U.S. withdrawing troops is not the problem. The problem is the way in which it is abruptly disengaging itself and the potential consequences.
- The Kurds have played a critical role in defeating the IS, whose fall began in Kobane, the Kurdish town which was liberated by the YPG in early 2015.
- Also, if there is a Kurdistan government in northeast Syria today, it is because the Kurds have captured all the major cities in the region, including Raqqah, the de facto capital of the IS, with U.S. support.
- But now, with the destruction of the IS “caliphate”, the U.S. seems to be abandoning the Kurds. This has led to furor as this is tantamount to betraying the Kurdish forces who were in the forefront of the war against the Islamic State.
- The American presence may have held Mr. Erdoğan back, but with the White House saying that the U.S. troops “will not support or be involved” in the Turkish operation, the decks were cleared for Ankara.
- Trump could have opted for an orderly exit from Syria with security guarantees from Turkey for the Kurds. Instead, he has just given in to Turkey’s demands.
This will lead to more destruction and chaos in the region with the untimely exit as IS cadres will now be activated.
- The IS caliphate was destroyed, not the IS. The remaining IS fighters have retreated to the Iraqi and Syrian deserts waiting for an opportunity to strike back.
- The Turkish incursion into Syria will not just set back the advances the Kurds have made in Rojava, but also weaken the most potent anti-jihadist force on the ground, besides throwing the whole region into disorder. It is a recipe for tragedy.