U.S. cannot please Ankara and get SDF to continue fighting ISIS - Jerusalem Post

The United States, in its mission to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), is increasingly focused on trying to manage a complex relationship with Ankara and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Jerusalem Post said on Saturday.

Washington is facing an uphill battle in both satisfying Ankara’s view and continuing to get the mostly-Kurdish SDF to fight ISIS, the article said.

Ankara sees the SDF and its affiliate, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed group that has been in war in Turkey for over 30 years, and says the SDF-controlled enclaves in northeast Syria pose threat to Turkey’s national security. The YPG forms the backbone of the U.S.-led coalition forces fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

Turkish and U.S. officials are negotiating the details of the planned safe zone in northern Syria, which Ankara sees essential to eliminate the threat posed by Kurdish militants.

The United States wants to continue the mission to defeat ISIS, the Jerusalem Post said, however,  Washington is having to placate Turkey, which continues to threaten to launch a military operation in eastern Syria. 

“Washington hopes that it can thread the needle of pleasing Turkey and the SDF by removing the SDF from the border without ending up with a Turkey military operation on its hands that would alienate the SDF partnership,’’ the article said.

The Jerusalem Post added, however, that it remains unclear whether it will that be enough for Ankara for Washington to get the SDF to keep fighting ISIS in one part of eastern Syria, while other parts of eastern Syria are quietly cleared of the SDF. 

Ankara likely thinks that more threats will get it a larger role in northern Syria and it will eventually damage the SDF partnership and force Washington to choose between Ankara and eastern Syria, the Jerusalem Post said. 

The SDF has previously witnessed Turkey take over Syria’s Kurdish enclave of Afrin and another Afrin would be seen as a monumental betrayal by locals who helped defeat ISIS.

Turkey and the United States have established a joint operations centre in southern Turkey and begun joint patrols, however, U.S. and Turkish officials still have disparities about the name and the size of the proposed safe zone and who will control it.

This move allows for Washington to get the SDF to remove fortifications while it conducts aerial flights and ground patrols with Turkey, the Jerusalem Post said, adding however, that at present there doesn’t seem to be any way to both satisfy Ankara’s view and continue to get the SDF to fight ISIS.