We can’t say they didn’t warn us. On Sunday, Donald Trump had a phone call with the Tyrant of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which Erdogan threatened to move his army into northern Syria and go after our Kurdish allies. The President responded by announcing that he would move our forces in the region “out of the way.” And now, only three days later, the Turks have crossed the border with an expeditionary force ahead of what’s expected to be a much larger invasion. (Bloomberg)
The first Turkish troops have crossed into northeastern Syria in preparation for a full-scale offensive to force back Kurdish militants controlling the border area, a Turkish official said, days after President Donald Trump said the U.S. wouldn’t stand in the way.
A small forward group of Turkish forces entered Syria early Wednesday at two points along the frontier, close to the Syrian towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Turkish lira weakened after the news, trading 0.3% lower at 5.8445 per dollar at 12 p.m. in Istanbul.
If anyone was expecting the Kurds to simply back down they’re in for a disappointment. In response to this news, they went “on high alert and called on fighters to head for the frontier to defend the region against the Turkish offensive…”
It’s hard to imagine this ending well. The Kurdish YPG militia is a tough bunch and they have some military hardware thanks to us, including shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. But the Turks are coming with what appears to be tens of thousands of troops, tanks, aircraft, and heavy weaponry. The YPG did a great job against ISIS, but they were mostly deploying foot soldiers with rifles. This is an actual army. I don’t hold out high hopes for them.
Also of grave concern is what will happen to the tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners that the Kurds are currently detaining in multiple towns along the border region. How will they turn them over to the Turks if they’re in the midst of a battle with them? Will the Turks even take them? The only other alternative would seem to be a literal army of ISIS fighters suddenly getting loose in the fog of war and returning to the battlefield to fight us yet again. A vast amount of progress in the war on terror could be lost here.
And all for what? This is happening because our supposed “ally” in Turkey has an ax to grind against the Kurds and the door has been swung open for him. It’s also a stark demonstration of how little control Bashar al-Assad has of his own borders outside of the capital and the southern and western reaches of the country. There are military units from multiple countries (including the United States) roaming his territory and he has no ability to cast them out.
Syria has been a mess for a long time. Sadly, it’s about to get a lot messier.