In case anyone is not yet aware, a little less than 48 hours ago President Erdogan of Turkey began a military invasion of Northern Syria, with the town of Afrin first in his sites. Erdogan has also announced that the events in Syria this weekend signify the beginning of a new military campaign in the region, designed to combat Kurdish ground forces around Turkeys southern border and stomp out what he calls a “terrorist army;” the Kurdish YPG.
Despite its lack of coverage here in the West, Turkeys decision ultimately kicks off what is sure to be the Middle Easts next or newest War. It also marks the second time a Nation has declared War on the Kurdish people in the last 4 months alone. Turkey now joins Iraq, whom first went to War with Kurdish residents/dissidents after they held a referendum vote to separate from the country/Government of Iraq in September of 2017. Perhaps most notably of all, Turkey will not be enlisting the help of the United States to accomplish their mission, instead choosing to partner with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Russian Air Force.
What’s particularly interesting/concerning about this story is that up until July of 2017, the Free Syrian Army had been directly funded/armed by Barack Obama and the United States Government dating back to 2013. Additionally, up until December of 2017, the US Government is also known to have directly funded/armed the Kurdish YPG inside Syria – the same group both Turkey and the rebels are now trying to take out. Turkey is of course a strong NATO ally, which it makes it more concerning that the country has established a working military relationship with the Russians, as well as a group the US has recently decided to sever ties with.
Additionally, as was reported by Middle East Eye earlier today, January 20th, 2017, “Around 25,000 Free Syrian Army rebels are joining the Turkish military operation in northern Syria with the goal of recapturing Arab towns and villages seized by the YPG Kurdish militia almost two years ago.” The report also interviews Major Yasser Abdul Rahim of the FSA, whom explains that the goal of this mission is to “regain sixteen Arab towns and villages occupied by the foreign militias (YPG),” and that they will be using “the help of the Russian air force” to accomplish this. As far as I know, this will also be the first time Syrian rebels have worked with and/or directly coordinated with Russia’s military.
To give you some perspective on these figures, at the end of December 2017 James Mattis announced that the US Military would be stationing 2,000 active duty troops inside Syria at all times from this moment on in the future. That is literally 23,000 less than the FSA has committed to Turkeys cause, clearly indicating that the bombing of Afrin, Syria last night was only the beginning of a long term/large scale military operation in the country.
— The Hill (@thehill) January 21, 2018
The unfortunate part of the story is that the Kurds have been heavily armed by the United States Government in the past, and the US led coalition has previously been using Kurdish Peshmerga forces as the literal infantry units fighting on the front-lines to re-capture and liberate cities in the War against terrorism. You might even remember Hillary Clinton once stating in a National Debate with Donald Trump in 2016 that if she was ever elected President, her strategy would have been to fully support and further arm Kurdish forces in the region – essentially continuing on with Barack Obama’s policies.
However, as you might also remember, Hillary Clinton did not become President – Donald Trump did. And it just so happens that Obama/Clinton and Trump disagree about a lot of things – including Syria. In fact, as was previously referenced, within a year of assuming office, in April of 2017, Donald Trump announced that the United States Government would be cutting off all future funding to Syrian Rebels fighting against the Government of Bashar al-Assad. Then, four months after that in November 2017, Trump also announced that the US Government would be cutting off all future funding to Kurdish forces fighting in Iraq and Syria, and had already begun the process of reclaiming heavy military equipment from them.
Despite the fact that the US military had been training and equipping Kurdish forces for almost half a decade, now US Secretary of Defense James Mattis has made it clear that the Kurds are on their own and the US will not be coming to their defense/aid against Turkey. After-all, if the US ever did try to fight back and defend the Kurds here then it would literally mean the end of the NATO alliance as we know it. This also means that despite the US’s history of supporting and arming the very groups Turkey is now waging War against, at least under the leadership of Donald Trump, the US Government may actually be more supportive of Turkeys actions this weekend than perhaps they are letting on.
For example, I seem to remember this quote from November basically wrapping up everything I have just explained here in a nutshell:
Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017