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HomeFrontlinesMiddle EastTurkey to launch a new offensive in Northern Syria: Report

Turkey to launch a new offensive in Northern Syria: Report

On Monday, Ankara announced that its forces are now poised to launch a new offensive against Kurdish forces (YPG/PKK) in the bordering regions with Syria. According to the President, the attack would start soon after the desired preparations and force deployments are achieved.

On 9th October 2019, Turkish forces invaded Syria in a massive ‘cross-border operation’ to expel Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the northeastern part of the country, due to its alleged support to Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). Both these organizations have been designated as terrorist groups by Ankara. The 2019 invasion led to the creation of a ‘buffer zone’ for Turkey, a strategically important move to keep Syrian conflict from spilling into its borders.

Turkey has been opposing the inclusion of Sweden and Finland in NATO, because of their alleged support to the YPG and other Kurdish forces. Erdogan is expected to put these points firmly in the NATO summit in Madrid. “Tomorrow we will go to the NATO Summit in Spain, and we will do whatever is necessary, in line with the rights and interests of our country,” he said, according to DailySabah. The report also mentioned that the President talked about ‘hypocrisy’ of certain countries regarding terrorist organizations, that will be demonstrated at the summit with documents. Naturally, the statement was pointed to the Swedish and Finnish bids to join the intercontinental defense organization.

Turkey, Kurds, and the United States

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Interestingly, these Kurdish militias are considered allies by the United States and are a part of the Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve, which is a US-led multinational coalition against ISIL. The Kurds have been supplied and trained by American forces, and have had spectacular successes against ISIL fighters. Why does Turkey claim Kurds as terrorists while its NATO ally, the United States, supplies the same organizations with weapons and training? The equation needs a deeper understanding.

Three organizations need to be kept in mind- the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and People’s Protection Units (YPG). The PKK is a designated terrorist organisation by many countries including Turkey and the US. The PYD is a Kurdish nationalist political party, established as the Syrian branch of the banned PKK. The YPG, in turn, started as a militia of the PYD to defend Kurdish-inhabited areas in northern Syria, i.e. Syrian Kurdistan and the Kurdish enclave of Sheikh Maqsood in Aleppo.

It would not take rocket science to establish that the YPG has had ties with the PKK. Even, in February 2018, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence in the Trump administration described YPG as the Syrian wing of PKK in its new report. However, Ankara has always opposed American support for the YPG, which, according to unconfirmed sources, led its ‘rebranding’ as Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on American advice. “We literally played back to them: ‘You have got to change your brand. What do you want to call yourselves besides the YPG?’”, the US Army Spec Ops Commander Gen. Raymond Thomas said during a security conference in Colorado back in 2017. “With about a day’s notice they declared that they are the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

That was the birth of SDF- against which the Turkish Armed Forces are planning to launch a new offensive. To summarise, the United States views the Syrian Democratic Forces as one of its key allies in the military intervention against ISIL in Syria, while Turkey views the group as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist group.

U.S. and Turkish troops rendezvous in northern Syria, 4 October 2019. U.S. and Turkish forces have conducted joint ground patrols in northern Syria in efforts to maintain security and reduce the chances of Kurdish-Turkish clashes.

Subsequently, after the invasion of northern Syria by Turkish forces in 2019 to expel SDF from the region, an agreement was signed between Ankara and Washington to establish a Northern Syria Buffer Zone. The agreement allowed for joint patrols by Turkish and American troops, while SDF had to remove its fortifications and remove YPG forces from the area. However, tensions continued to rise as Turkey continued to levy more demands on the SDF, which it refused to accept. This led to open ultimatums by Erdogan to the Kurdish forces, which have resulted in the ongoing preparations for a new offensive into Northern Syria.

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