U.S. influence in Syria collapses over Afrin

Kurdish forces in the Syrian canton of Afrin calling for and receiving support from Syrian government-allied militias represent the continuing collapse of U.S. influence in the region, according to an article in the Asia Times by David P. Pullman.

Pro-Syrian government militia entered the northwestern Syria enclave of Afrin on Tuesday and were reportedly shelled upon by Turkish artillery.

Having backed and trained Kurdish militants in northern Syria to fight Islamic State (ISIS), the United States has abandoned the Kurdish People’s Defence Forces (YPG) in the enclave of Afrin, leaving them alone to face Turkish soldiers that invaded last month.   

Turkey argues that the YPG fighters are directly linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has since 1984 fought a war for autonomy inside Turkey that has cost some 40,000 lives.  

 “Washington is paralyzed by fear that Turkey might leave NATO if it stands behind the Kurds,” Pullman wrote. “For Washington, the path of least resistance was to use the Kurds to fend off ISIS and then hang them out to dry. That left the Kurds with no other choice but to turn to the Assad government and its Russian backers.”

Pullman argues that the Turkish siege of Afrin and the Kurdish outreach to Russia and the Assad government may turn out to be the “point that American influence in the region collapsed beyond repair.”