Turkey wants Kurdish militia to retreat from all areas it controls west of the Euphrates River. Turkey entered Syria allegedly to clear the Islamic State (IS) from Jarabulus, a town near the border.
However it has also attacked units of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) as well. The US voiced concern about the development, as it has been supporting the YPG as part of a coalition that has been successfully gaining ground from the IS. Turkish president Recep Erdogan worries that the Kurds may establish an independent enclave on their border and also that the Kurds east of the Euphrates would link up with another Kurd-controlled area further to the southwest. In spite of the US saying that the Turkish operation was unacceptable, Turkey said it would continue operations against the Kurds unless they withdraw from areas they have taken west of the Euphrates River.
The Turkish strikes against the YPG complicate the situation in Syria since the US supports the YPG as a key ally against the IS. The US has called the clashes unacceptable.US Vice President Joe Biden claimed last week that the US had ordered the YPG to retreat or risk losing US support but Turkey claimed it had seen no evidence of any withdrawal. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said: "The YPG... needs to cross east of the Euphrates as soon as possible. So long as they don't, they will be a target." He also accused the YPG of "ethnic cleansing" around the city of Manbji, west of the Euphrates, which the YPG captured from the IS earlier this month.
Unlike the US, Turkey considers that the YPG is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that Turkey considers a terrorist organization.The YPG forces withdrew south of Jarabulus in order to protect lives of civilians but there are Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that include the YPG in and around the city of Manbji.
A recent report claims Turkish and Kurdish forces have now a "loose agreement" to stop fighting each other according to John Thomas a spokesperson for the US Central Command. The two parties agreed to concentrate on fighting the IS. Thomas said:"It's a loose agreement for at least the next couple of days and we are hoping that will solidify." US relations with Turkey are already strained but at the same time the US has found the YPG to be a valuable ally in fighting the IS.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.