Sunday, August 28, 2016

Turkey is greatly increasing operations against Syrian Kurds.

A Turkish APC returning to base after raiding Syria. Reuters. 

Turkey is greatly increasing offensive operations against Syrian Kurds after launching their cross border attacks last week. Reuters. Turkish F-16's have launched airstrikes against the Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces as well as Islamic State positions. Turkey has admitted that their cross border attacks have as much to do with fighting ISIS as it does fighting the Kurds. The Turks have claimed that one of their tanks was destroyed in the fighting and that one soldier was killed and three more were wounded. Separate rebel groups, one backed by the Turks and another part of the Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces were battling near the city of Jarablus, which was just liberated from ISIS by the Turks. Officially, the United States is allied with both the Kurdish rebels and the nation of Turkey. 

Anti-Turk forces destroy a Turkish tank near Jarablus.

My Comment:
Well, this is going about how I predicted. ISIS was never the primary target for Turkey. It was always about the Kurds. More then anything else Turkey wants to push out the Kurds from the Jarablus region and keep them from hooking up with their western enclave. ISIS was always a red herring. Though it was good that they were kicked out of Jarablus, the battle was never really against them in the first place.

The Turks are going a bit further then I expected them to go though. Not only are they attacking the Kurds, they are also targeting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Though the Kurds are the senior partner in that alliance, they are also targeting the junior partners, the Arab rebels, as well. They are also sending their ethnically Turkish rebels to fight the Arab rebels. You may remember the Turkish rebels as the charming fellows that murdered a Russian pilot after Turkey shot his plane down. 

This puts the United States in a rather awkward position. Officially we are allied with both the Turks and the Kurds. We spent a lot of time and money training the SDF and have sent a lot of equipment to the Kurds. Now that equipment is being used against the Turks, our NATO ally. In short, our friends are fighting each other, something that would be comical if it wasn't so deadly and pointless.

It's also pretty clear which side the United States is coming down on, and as usual it is the wrong side. Despite being a junior partner in the war against ISIS and doing way less then they should be against the terrorists, we are backing the Turks. To be fair, their membership in NATO goes a long way and we would be risking that alliance if we didn't back them. 

But this seems to me like a massive betrayal of our Kurdish friends in Syria. They have been the backbone in the fight against ISIS and we have spent a lot of money training them and their Arab allies. And now Turkey is bombing them and we aren't doing a thing to stop it. That seems like a huge betrayal to me. The Kurds aren't perfect, far from it. Many of them are far to the left, to the point of being Communists, but at least they are going down the radical Islam route that Turkey seems to be on the path to. I'd rather support them then the Turks, misgivings aside, but it's clear that won't happen.

At this point it isn't surprising. Our efforts to find allies in the war in Syria against ISIS and al-Nusra/Jabah Fatah al-Sham have been a comedy of errors. Our attempts to train rebels have all ended in disaster with groups getting wiped out or even laying down their weapons to the enemy. The Kurds and the SDF were the best allies we had, and now we are seeing them fight our other major ally.

I can't imagine we are going to keep getting rebels and other fighters to support our efforts anywhere if this keeps up. Can you imagine what a young Syrian fighter is going to think about this? It's clear that we won't back our allies in their time of need and that means that people on the ground will search elsewhere for allies. Right now that means Russia, and I am guessing there are probably some rebel groups that are going to cross back over to the regime because of our gutlessness when it comes to backing our allies. It's clear that we don't keep our promises and only the most foolish rebel groups would back our efforts now. 

Not that there is a whole lot we could do to stop the Turks. We can't really sanction our ally or pull out of Turkey. We could threaten to kick them out of NATO but for various reasons that will never happen. The most we could really do is send them a diplomatic protest but again, we won't be pissing off the Turks anytime soon, especially since they are already mad at us for our supposed/suspected role in their recent failed coup attempt. 

I said before that this attack was very bad news for ISIS. I still think that is true, Jarablus was a critical city for them and they couldn't afford to lose it. But it has to help them that another major force just curbstomped their most determined enemy in the region. That is, of course, mitigated by the fact that the Turks really are targeting ISIS as well. Everything I said in my last post about ISIS in Syria still holds. They need these border regions badly, and even if the Turks and Kurds are fighting each other, they are still losing out. The need to find a way to take advantage of the chaos, but I don't think they are up to it right now. 

I also have to wonder what the fate of all the Westerners that are fighting with the Kurds is right now. I always had great concerns for those fighters, especially the American ones. I pointed out a long time ago that there was always a chance of Turkey coming in and destroying the Kurds, which would put those fighters in a very awkward position. The vast majority of those western fighters are there to fight ISIS, not the Turks, so I wonder where their loyalty will be if this war expands further. All I know if I was one of those fighters, I would be getting the hell out of Dodge as soon as possible.

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