Turkey Reportedly Sets Deadline for SDF Withdrawal from Northern Syria

Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday that, according to a Turkish source, Ankara has urged Moscow and Washington to press the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to withdraw within two weeks from Manbij, Tal Rifaat and Kobane, in northern Syria.

Turkey Reportedly Sets Deadline for SDF Withdrawal from Northern Syria
Image credit: Reuters [via TRT World]

Facts

  • Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday that, according to a Turkish source, Ankara has urged Moscow and Washington to press the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to withdraw within two weeks from Manbij, Tal Rifaat and Kobane, in northern Syria.
  • Turkey has reportedly warned that failure to meet the deadline — which won't be extended — will result in a military operation against the US-backed SDF.
  • The SDF is largely comprised of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), a group Ankara accuses of being the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which it — along with the EU and US — considers a terrorist organization.
  • White House national security spokesman John Kirby stated on Wednesday that the US recognizes the Turkish right to self-defense but opposes military operations in northern Syria as the best way to tackle security threats, citing risks to civilians, troops and personnel.
  • In addition, according to two US sources familiar with the issue who spoke to Axios, CIA director Bill Burns gave his Turkish counterpart a strong message opposing strikes against the Kurdish in northern Syria after one of them hit a target close to US troops.
  • This comes a day after Pentagon officials said that recently restricted full ground operations alongside Kurdish partners in northern Syria will be resumed shortly, a move that could fuel tensions with NATO ally Turkey.

Sources: Al Jazeera, Reuters, Axios, and Washington Post.

Narratives

  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Daily Sabah. Turkey has been forced to conduct its own counterterrorism operations in northern Syria and northern Iraq because the US has continuously disregarded its NATO ally's security concerns. In order to fight IS in the region, Washington has provided military training and support to the PKK and its Syrian affiliate, YPG, despite designating it a terrorist organization. Turkey has no choice but to escalate action to protect itself.
  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by The Washington Post. Turkey's obsession with Kurdish terrorism has dangerously escalated the situation in northern Syria, putting American forces at risk while also destabilizing the coalition's fragile control over IS. The SDF has no connection with the militant militia known as PKK and has been working with the US and coalition forces for years. This isn't what the US should expect from an ally and sets a dangerous precedent for other alliances.