Kurds and Their Allies in Syria Count On Promises of U.S. Support

Kurds and Their Allies in Syria Count On Promises of U.S. Support by Rod Nordland – New York Times

The front line between rival American-backed and Turkish-backed militias in northern Syria, just eight miles north of Manbij, snakes over mostly barren hillsides and through newly planted olive orchards. It consists of many miles of bulldozed earthworks, with fortified bunkers every few hundred yards.

This is the line, along the Sajur River valley, that Turkish forces would have to cross if ordered to carry out President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threat to extinguish Kurdish control in northern Syria, and it is also the line the American military has said it will not give up to Turkey, its NATO ally.

The possibility of a military conflict between two NATO allies is unprecedented but, after years of deteriorating relations between Turkey and the United States, not unthinkable. If Turkey were to attack Kurdish forces and their allies in Manbij, and the American military intervened, the strains on the NATO alliance would be extreme.

The local front-line commander for the Manbij Military Council, Shiar Gherde, is keenly aware of the tenuous nature of his position, but his worries are not tactical. “This is a political conflict now, more than a military one,” Mr. Gherde said during a tour on Wednesday of his fighters’ fortifications. And politically, as he saw it, the Americans are on their side.

The Manbij Military Council is aligned with the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, and while the majority of the council’s fighters are Arabs, most of its field commanders, like Mr. Gherde, are Kurds…

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