Thursday, January 10, 2019

Turkey: U.S. ‘Intertwined and Engaged with a Terrorist Organization’ in Syria

Turkey’s foreign minister claimed that the United States was struggling to withdraw troops from Syria because it had complicated the battlefield with its support of “terrorist” groups and that only severing ties with the Syrian Kurdish groups Turkey opposes could fix the problem.

America’s most reliable battlefield allies in Syria are the members of the People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ), the Syrian Kurdish militia controlling much of northern Syria, which the Kurds call Rojava. The YPG played a major role in the eradication of the Islamic State, offering support to U.S. airstrikes. As the major wing of the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) coalition, the YPG helped liberate Raqqa, the capital of the ISIS “caliphate.” YPG fighters remain in Raqqa, suppressing attacks from the few jihadists remaining in the city.
The Turkish government considers the YPG indistinguishable from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a U.S.-designated Marxist terrorist group. The PKK is active in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expanded his government’s claim, asserting that Ankara does not distinguish between the YPG and the Islamic State.
President Donald Trump suggested that he would withdraw all American troops from Syria in the near future in remarks last year, declaring that the Islamic State had been defeated and that its presence in the country was the only legal justification from U.S. military action. Troops remain in the country, however, and the Pentagon has indicated that no sudden pull-out would occur. Such a withdrawal would leave the YPG exposed to a Turkish invasion.
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu suggested that the United States was not merely taking careful measures to ensure the success of the withdrawal, but that its support for the Kurdish militias had made that withdrawal problematic.
“After being so intertwined and engaged with a terrorist organization, it is not that easy to leave that terrorist organization,” Çavuşoğlu said at a Turkish Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.
The foreign minister went on to say that the Turkish government was planning a military operation in YPG territory and that it would not hesitate to act one the Americans left. READ MORE