Small Wars Journal

Is the U.S. Bailing on Syrian Kurds?

Is the U.S. Bailing on Syrian Kurds? By Al-Monitor

Although US President Donald Trump urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Jan. 24 to “exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces,” Turkey appears committed to extending its military operations beyond the current assault on Afrin.

Two days after Trump and Erdogan spoke, the Turkish presidency announced that, following a call between Erdogan adviser and spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and US national security adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster, “no weapons would be given” to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which would amount to a major American concession and potential turning point in the conflict.

The next day, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on US forces to leave Manbij.

Turkey considers the YPG — the armed group linked to the Syrian Kurdish PYD — terrorists with ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the United States has also labeled a terrorist organization. The United States has supported the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as its on-the-ground partner in Syria. The SDF includes primarily YPG fighters.

Erdogan is now claiming that Afrin and surrounding towns are majority Arab, although reliable local sources indicate a significant Kurdish majority, with a sizable number of Arabs, as well as some Yazidis, Turkmens, Armenians and Circassians. The endgame for the Turkish president may be a cordon sanitaire to which to return the 3.5 million Syrian refugees residing in Turkey. On Jan. 24, the same day Erdogan spoke with Trump, the Turkish president separately said, "First, we will wipe out the terrorists and then make the place livable. For whom? For 3.5 million Syrians who are our guests. We cannot forever house them in tents."…

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