Turkish Military Forces Invade Kurdish Controlled Syria


(Photo By:Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images)

Safa Hameed

On October 9th, it was confirmed that Turkish military forces and Turkish-backed Syrian Rebels had started an offense against Kurdish U.S. allies  that led to the displacement of nearly 200,000 and the death of 200 civilians. This occurred just days after President Trump removed all 1,000 U.S. troops from the Turkish-Syrian border.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were the key components in driving out ISIS and destroying their “caliphate”. During Obama’s presidency he didn’t want to risk harming troops by sending them to Iraq and Syria, so most of the groundwork was done by the SDF. Even when troops were dispatched, they worked closely with the SDF as they were the only people who seemed to get an edge over the terrorists. Now, the SDF looks over 11,000 ISIS militants in prisons near their strongholds as well as the 70,000 displaced relatives and supporters of these militants in a camp at al-Hol. This poses a problem as the bombings of the prisons, power vacuums, and suspended operations against ISIS will cause them to cease the opportunities they have and regroup. 

The Turkish push for the disablement of the Kurdish people is because of the link between the SDF/YPG and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is a separatist group that has waged war on Turkey for years.

The removal of U.S. troops came after President Trump argued that the U.S. must avoid “endless wars.” The absence of these troops paved the way for Turkish military to invade Kurdish controlled Syria because it left the Kurds defenseless and without the help of any Western ally that Turkey might want to avoid. For six hours, war jets dropped artillery shells and bombs on Kurdish towns with no warnings before sending in mobilized troops. They targeted and tried to capture the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tel Abyad which are strongholds of the Syrian Democratic forces, who are constituents of a much larger Kurdish military force known as YPG. In response to these attacks, YPG dropped all ISIS counter-terrorism missions and has focused solely on defending their towns from Turkish control. 

The fighting went on for a week before the U.S. brokered a ceasefire between Turkey and the YPG. The ceasefire went on for 120 hours and required all Kurdish militants to withdraw from a 20 km “safe zone” along the border as well as surrender all heavy weaponry and dismantle fortifications. The YPG and U.S. called this a pause in fighting, but for the Turks it was like a win as noted by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu,”We got what we wanted. This is not a ceasefire. We [will] only halt our operations.”

Even though a supposed ceasefire was taking place, eyewitnesses from Syria reported that fighting continued to take place nonetheless which was confirmed by President Trump through twitter, “He [Erdogan] told me there was minor sniper and mortar fire that was quickly eliminated.”

After the ceasefire ended on the 22 of October, it was revealed that Turkey was willing to reach a deal with the Kurds which was negotiated by Russia during a meeting with Putin on the same day. The deal said that Turkey was to obtain all parts of northern Syria it had captured, which is about 120km that stretches from Ras al-Ain to Tel Abyad, in order to act as a sort of “safe or buffer zone”. Turkey later said it had plans to relocate 2 of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently living in camps at its border there. They also said that by having control of the border they could keep track of any terrorists escaping Turkey through the Syrian borders, which was a problem before. 

The attack and invasion of the Kurds has been condemned by many countries around the world. President Trump issued many statements through twitter, especially after he received backlash for withdrawing troops, clarifying that, “The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea.” He also threatened to impose economic sanctions on Turkish steel should they violate the ceasefire. According to The New York Times, Senator Lindsey Graham felt that President Trump was “shamelessly abandoning” American Kurdish allies and that his move would only “ensure the re-emergence of ISIS.” Much like Senator Graham, the UK, EU, Germany, France, and the U.S. House of Representatives issued a joint statement that both condemned Turkey and President Trump’s actions as that would only help ISIS reconvene.