Ankara (GPA) – US forces are beginning to worry about a new front in the Syrian war as Turkish reinforcements arrive on the border of Kurdish controlled Afrin.
Turkey has been exchanging rocket and artillery fire with the US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria in recent weeks, and it now looks like Ankara is seeking to expand operations. Turkey has deployed fresh artillery and armored units to the border and has promised to respond to any actions by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – who they believe are connected to the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK.
The YPG currently comprises a majority of the US backed coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), but the group is considered a terrorist organization by the Turkish government. However, NATO doesn’t share this classification of the YPG and is currently cooperating with them as the main ground force for retaking the “capital” of the Islamic State, Raqqa.
US military leaders are now beginning to show some concern about Turkish movements, especially these latest developments which are suspected to be a part of a push by the military to secure a swathe of territory between the Kilis border region and Idlib, Syria. This is speculated to be part of a larger agreement between Moscow and Ankara for a joint operation to liberate Idlib.
This details of this operation were just speculation until the past few days when statements by the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition spoke with Turkish media outlet TRT World. According to these rebels, they are currently just awaiting an order from Ankara to retake Menagh Airport, Tel Rifat and other villages from the YPG. Turkey and Russia will also both send their own troops to Idlib to act as a buffer between Syrian and opposition forces.
Russia may not be fully on board with the Turkish ambitions since the YPG also receives support from Moscow. However, in Afrin, it’s likely that they see this as a lesser problem than the Al Nusra infestation in Idlib. Plus, with Kurds getting more aggressive with their dreams of independence, maybe Moscow is seeking to let the two forces – that both have ambitions that run counter to that of the Syrian government – cut each other down for the time being.