Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Turks do not want Kurds involved in offensive to take Raqqa from the Islamic State

Turkey does not want the U.S.-backed offensive to take the Syrian Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa by relying on Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia.

Turkish president, Recep Erdogan, said that Turkey could join the U.S.-led operation but only if Kurdish fighters were not involved. Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG and its associated Kurdish Democratic Union party as a terrorist group with links to Kurdish rebel insurgents within Turkey. The U.S., on the other hand, regards the group as among the most effective at fighting against the Islamic State and have provided them with support. This has created tension between the U.S. and Turkey.
Turkey said that if the operation were conducted with the YPG there would be no place in the operation for Turkish forces. Erdogan told reporters:"If they do not insert the PYD and YPG into this business, then certainly, we can get [involved] with the U.S. in this fight." He said it would be a shame if the U.S. and Turkey could not themselves counter the estimated 10,000 Islamic State fighters in Syria. He also called for a "national army" of Syrian rebel groups to maintain security in the region claiming that there were at least 65,000 rebel fighters able to do so. However, U.S. general Joe Dunford said just a week ago that the U.S. was considering arming Syrian Kurdish forces before the Raqqa offensive.
Turkey, a NATO member as well as a member of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, last month launched a ground operation to aid Turkish supported rebels oust the IS from a border town and surrounding area. However, there was some fighting with the YPG as well. A video describing the operation is appended.
A Turkish official claims that using the Kurds would result in prolonged ethnic conflict in the area. Since the town is predominantly Arab, the official suggested that Arab fighters should be the core of any offensive force. The official said; "Raqqa is an Arab city with a million people. If you carry out an operation to this city with 7,000-8,000 Kurdish forces, you would trigger a sectarian battle. That conflict would enflame all our border region." The U.S. has been having talks about a possible joint offensive with Turkey to take Raqqa.
Turkey does not want the Kurds to remain in territory west of the Euphrates river. While some Kurdish troops have withdrawn, some YPG fighters still remain in Manjbi which is west of the Euphrates. The Kurds already control an area further to the west along the Turkish border and the Turks fear that the Kurds might try to link the area with the rest of Syria that the Kurds control.
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, echoed Erdogan's warning about using Kurds in the Raqqa offensive. He said that the offensive should include other U.S.-supported rebels and those supported by Turkey but not Kurds. He criticized the U.S. for its ongoing cooperation with the YPG. After the YPG captured the city of Manjbi, the Turks demanded they withdraw. Some have, but Cavusoglu complained that others still remained. Turkey has also talked of expelling "terrorists" from along the entire border a threat covering Kurds east of the Euphrates and an enclave further to the west.


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