A new deal between the Syrian government and Kurdish forces could lead to a face-off between Syria and Turkey, as both countries increase their troop presence at the border.
One week after the US began pulling back troops from Syria’s northern border, Syria is now sending its own troops in, to stand with Kurdish forces. The move comes after a deal was made between the Kurds, and the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syrian troops were seen advancing north, and returning to the country’s north-eastern region for the first time in years.
While the territory has been controlled by the Kurds, it has come under assault by Turkish forces, who label the Kurds as a terrorist group. Turkey claims the goal of the ongoing offensive is to create a safe zone so that millions of Syrian refugees can return to their country.
But the bombing campaign launched by Turkey has sent tens of thousands of civilians fleeing from their homes. It has the power to impact more than 300,000 civilians if it continues.
It has also taken the Kurds away from guarding around 10,000 ISIS prisoners and their families and reports claim that around 1,000 of those prisoners have already escaped.
In addition to launching airstrikes, Turkey has cut off the main roadways used by the Kurds. This includes the only access to the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani, where US troops are based.
The battle between Turkey and the Kurds has been ongoing for decades, but it has escalated in recent years as the Kurds have gained more power in north-eastern Syria—fueled by both arms and funding from the United States.
When Turkish President Erdogan threatened to launch an offensive in late 2018, he admitted that the Trump Administration convinced him to hold back. But he said he warned the US that “In the upcoming months, on the ground in Syria,” Turkey would follow through with “a style of incursion that eliminates” both the elements of Kurdish militias and the remnants of ISIS.
While the US has pulled back troops, it has also condemned Turkey’s offensive, and following calls from members of Congress to place economic sanctions on Turkey, President Trump took to Twitter on Monday, where he said, “Big sanctions on Turkey coming! Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey? Never ending wars will end.”
Now, while an impending clash between Turkey and Syria appears to be on the horizon, it remains to be seen how allies of each side will react moving forward, as NATO members continue to call on Turkey to back down.