Turkey Strikes Northern Syria: A War Against YPG Or A Move Against ISIS?

Turkey Strikes Northern Syria: A War Against YPG Or A Move Against ISIS?Photo: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Snapshot
  • Amidst the ongoing multifaceted crisis in Syria, it is important for Turkey, the Yekîneyên Parastina Gel group and the US-led coalition to drop their individual interests and work to defeat the common enemy, the Islamic State.

As the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took control of Manbij, a strategically important town controlled by ISIS until 12 August 2016, the apparent conflict between SDF and the US-lead international coalition backing them deterred any constructive movement on the ground. 



Disagreeing with the US-led coalition’s decision to advance on Raqqa, the SDF selected Al-Bab as their next target. SDF’s decision to advance on Al-Bab, an obvious move as the city links western canton of Afrin to the rest of region that the Kurds call Rojava, irked Turkey.



An autonomous region controlled by the Kurds, located along Syria’s border with Turkey, is what Ankara has feared throughout the fight against ISIS. The existing animosity between the Syrian Kurds and Turkey intensified as Ankara dubbed SDF’s decision to advance on Al-Bab as an attempt gain territory in northern Syria near its border. SDF, a collation of Arab and Kurdish fighters, is dominated by the Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG). Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Turkish-Kurdish rebel group fighting for autonomy in Turkey since the 1980s. 



Turkey launched its first major military campaign into Syria just over two weeks ago. In view of the growing animosity, Turkey’s move to attack YPG in the northern Syria can be seen as an attempt to prevent the creation of an autonomous Kurdish territory along its border with Syria. 



The Kurds have accused Ankara of using the US-led coalition against IS as a cover to attack the YPG in northern Syria. “Turkey shamelessly and openly backs IS and al-Qaeda terrorists against Kurdish freedom fighters,” Sadi Pria, a top Iraqi Kurdish official has been quoted as saying. 



While the fall of Manbij is a victory against the Islamic State’s expansionist moves, the conflict in Syria and Iraq is far from over. Amidst the ongoing multifaceted crisis in Syria, it is important for Turkey, the YPG and the US-led coalition to drop their individual interests and work to defeat the common enemy, the Islamic State.

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