By Aparajita Arya
Turkish President Erdogan has condemned Washington’s proposal for a 30,000 men strong Kurdish-led border security force in Syria, calling it an “army of terror.”
Opposition to a terrorist group
Much of Erdogan’s opposition comes from the fact that the soldiers of this force will be recruited largely from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The latter, owing to its links with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which because of its violent advocacy for the Kurdish nationalist movement has been banned, has been treated as a “terrorist group” in Turkey. In fact, Turkey has found support for this approach in its western allies, who have denounced the PPK as a terrorist organisation, whose rebellion has led to the killing of over 40,000 people since the 1980s. Accordingly, Ankara has vowed to “suffocate” any efforts of US-led coalition’s border force.
An attack on Syrian sovereignty
This move has escalated tensions between the NATO allies. Because the force will be deployed on its southern border, it poses an essential threat to Turkey. In response, the coalition commented on the situation and said, “Turkey is a valued member of a 74-member Coalition and a NATO partner, sharing our mission to ensure the lasting defeat of (IS) in Iraq and Syria. It would be inappropriate for us to comment on Mr. Erdogan’s remarks.” Furthermore, despite the placations, even Syria and Russia have expressed their concern towards the proposed force as being a blatant attack on Syrian sovereignty and a catalyst for partition and fragmentation in the region. In fact, Damascus has declared that any Syrians joining and fighting on behalf of the proposed forces will be “a traitor to their people and nation.”
A strong security force?
Having said that, the US views the YPG as an efficient means to push back the Islamic State (IS). A top media official for the SDF, Mustefa Bali, has already confirmed that an “inaugural class” of 230 individuals was already being trained for the proposed force. Indeed, after reclaiming large parts along Syria’s northern and eastern border from IS control, as well as sections in the Euphrates River Valley, the SDF and the coalition are seeking to concretise their control over these areas, avoiding any future resurgences of IS forces. The coalition has claimed that “a strong border security force will prohibit Daesh’s freedom of movement and deny the transportation of illicit materials” and that “this will enable the Syrian people to establish effective local, representative governance and reclaim their land.”
A worsening conflict
However, despite its perceived benefits, the proposed force will certainly aggravate the existing conflicts in the region. Since last year, there has been an unofficial diagonal “de-confliction” line across Syria that has prevented clashes between the SDF and Turkish forces. At the same time, encounters between the YPG and Turkish forces have occurred on a regular basis, with the 2016 Euphrates Shield Operation being one such instance. Thus, any possibility of Turkey warming up to the proposed border force is highly unlikely. In fact, Ergdogan has alleged that the YGP has been in efforts to establish a “terror corridor” on Turkey’s southern border that would also push for Kurdish independence in Syria. There is a palpable concern among Turkish authorities regarding potential Kurdish freedom in Syria that would thus strengthen the Kurdish movement within Turkey itself. Consequently, the US-led coalition’s recent propositions have only served to further depress American ties with Turkey.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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