Last updated on December 16th, 2018
The complicated political situation in Syria is set to intensify further as Ankara plans its military operation against Kurdish fighters in the Northern part of the war-torn country.
As the YPG under Kurds is already engaging with ISIS militia in North-Western Syria, receiving armed support and training from United States, Erdogan’s announcement of Turkish intervention in Syrian Kurdistan is a grave concern for the Pentagon.
Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, said, “Unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party, particularly as U.S. personnel may be present or in the vicinity, is of grave concern, and we would find any such actions unacceptable.” However, the Turkish President also talked about consultations with American allies.
Earlier on Wednesday, Erdogan claimed that Turkish troops would begin a military offensive east of the Euphrates river in northern Syria in a few days. Turkey considers the YPG as a terrorist organization and accuses the Syrian Kurds of supporting violence along the Turkish border under the banner of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). Yet, the United States continues to support the Syrian Kurds in their fight against ISIS, which has strained relations between Washington and Ankara.
James Jeffrey, the State Department’s special representative for Syria engagement, has also cautioned Turkey against taking action against the Syria Kurds, the U.S. official has repeatedly accepted that the YPG maintains a relationship with the terrorist group PKK.
In a bid to address Turkey’s concerns over the YPG, Jeffrey informed reporters last week that “Washington’s support for the Kurdish warriors is tactical and temporary”, thereby stressing the need to cooperate closely with Turkey to reach a final political resolution in Syria.
Reiterating the sentiments of the Pentagon, Jeffrey also told Congressmen last month:
“The United States remains committed to working with Turkey to address Turkish security concerns, including along its borders, and we support Turkey in its fight against the PKK, while attempting to reduce tensions. And as we have said before, uncoordinated, unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party, particularly where U.S. personnel are present, is of great concern, and any action that endangers U.S. personnel is unacceptable.” He also acknowledged the vital support provided by Syrian Kurds to the U.S.-led coalition’s efforts against ISIS.
Ankara’s military movements against YPG in northern Syria over the past two years have placed U.S. service members directly in the path of advancing Turkish troops. Even as Turkey aims to crush the U.S.-backed YPG fighters, both NATO allies have been working to avoid direct confrontation. A lasting political solution in Syria and Iraq, complicated by the void created as a result of retreating ISIS forces, would require all stakeholders to come to the negotiating table, and deliberate the possibility of a peaceful coexistence between adversaries.