(CNN) Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria against Kurdish militia opens yet another front in the seven-year Syrian conflict, and risks giving ISIS breathing room just as it was being suffocated.
Turkey has long warned that it will not tolerate control of much of its border with Syria by the « terrorist » Kurdish YPG militia — even as the US has bolstered its support for the YPG as its proxy in the fight against ISIS.
To Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the YPG are indistinguishable from the Kurdish separatist group in Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK.
At the same time, hundreds of Kurdish fighters from the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been leading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, were assembling in towns to the east and south of Afrin, according to The Associated Press.
A shopkeeper in Raqqa, who asked not to be named out of fear for his safety, said by text message that a large number of Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces were being sent from Raqqa to Manbij to prepare for a Turkish attack.
Turkish officials have repeatedly criticized the United States for its support and arming of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the Y.P.G., which are spearheading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria.
Turkey on Sunday continued a major attack inside northwestern Syria on a Kurdish militia it has called a « terror army » that presents a danger to Turkish security.
One day earlier Turkey sent tanks and armored vehicles lumbering across the border with Syria to add to artillery and aerial invasions already underway against the YPG, which Ankara seeks to drive out of the Afrin region of Syria.
Turkey also announced Saturday that the aerial component of its « Operation Olive Branch » had struck 108 YPG targets, as NPR’s Peter Kenyon tells our newscast unit.
The new army will draw on “Syrian democratic forces -SDF-” a militia mainly composed of Kurdish fighters, which conquered, with US military help, the city of Kobane and later Raqqa, capital of the Islamic State, and then surged west beyond the river Euphrates up to the Iraqi border – altogether 30 000 square kilometers, or a third of Syria’s territory, along the Turkish border and reaching to the Iraqi border.
In short, America is adopting a new policy and is getting ready for a long stay in Syria.There was an immediate outcry from Turkey, Russia, Iran and the Assad regime who protested the creation of a new Kurdish army – though it was made clear later that it merely the reinforcing of the SDF to enable it to assume the task of controlling the borders.
Russia and Iran intervened in the Syrian crisis at the bequest of Assad, but he has lost all legitimacy a long time ago since his regime survived through brutal force against his own people and the support of foreign forces.