No winners in Turkey’s new offensive into Syria - analyst

Turkey’s military offensive against the Syrian Kurdish militia is likely to prove indecisive and costly for both sides, an analyst wrote at the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

The conflict is already a tremendous headache for the United States, which needs Kurdish fighters to stabilise the Syrian regions after Islamic State is routed, but Washington also needs to maintain long-term strategic relations with Ankara, its NATO ally.

Turkish army launched the airstrikes and the ground offensve against pro-Kurdish militia People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northwestern enclave of Afrin, in the one place it can do so without directly confronting U.S. troops, Noah Bonsay, the senior analyst at the Brussels-based non-profit Crisis Group, said.

But Afrin, a mountainous and densely populated region, presents a terrain suitable for guerrilla warfare, Bonsay said.

Compared to its 2016 offensive against Islamic State, the Turkish troops now face better-trained Kurdish fighters in an area inhabited by a hostile population, therefore “Turkey will end up in a prolonged fight against a potent, deeply-motivated insurgency,” the analyst said.

If Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does what he says, and expands the military offensive to Manbij, a region where U.S. troops are also present alongside Kurdish militia, it risks far deeper damage to its relationship with the U.S. and encourage the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which fought a separatist fight since 1984 in Turkey, to revert bombings in Turkey, Bonsay noted.

Facing an indecisive conflict, Bonsay suggested the sides a peaceful solution:

Rather than costly pursuits of quixotic objectives where their respective hands are weaker, Turkey and the PKK/YPG would be better served by a quid pro quo: PKK military concessions in Turkey (eg, an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of arms from Turkish soil) in exchange for Ankara’s returning to the peace process and acquiescence to continued YPG control within much of northern Syria.