Small Wars Journal

A Defeat for Syrian Kurds is Another Blow for U.S. Policy

A Defeat for Syrian Kurds is Another Blow for U.S. Policy by Ishaan Tharoor – Washington Post

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan crowed that Turkish troops and their rebel allies had “liberated” the northern Syrian city of Afrin and were in “total control” of its environs. After two months of grinding warfare, they had driven out fighters belonging to the YPG, a faction of Syrian Kurds loathed by Ankara because of its links to an outlawed terrorist group operating on Turkish soil.

As the Kurdish fighters withdrew, tens of thousands of civilians followed. “We sat this out for the past seven years,” a Kurdish resident of Afrin told reporters. “We bothered no one and watched the storm pass all around us. Then the Turks came for us.”

Reports suggest rebel militias allied with Turkey are ransacking abandoned shops and homes in Afrin. There are fears of reprisal attacks and a new influx of Islamist militants, shielded by the Turkish advance. Erdogan has vowed further advances against Syrian Kurdish positions to the east. “Basically, anything goes,” a Western official based in the Middle East told the Guardian's Martin Chulov after Afrin's capture. “There is no right or wrong anymore. The international order is dying in the ruins of Syria.”

But the fall of Afrin does offer a particularly gloomy snapshot of Washington's confused role in the Syrian war. Both the Trump and Obama administrations courted the YPG and backed their fight against the Islamic State — much to the chagrin of Turkey. The YPG is the most important fighting force within a coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, which led the anti-jihadist fight in eastern and northeastern Syria and helped drive the Islamic State from its de facto capital, Raqqa. The group has won bipartisan sympathy on Capitol Hill and is celebrated by some columnists and public intellectuals in the West as a secular, “liberal” outfit operating in a world of reactionaries and extremists…

Read on.