Turkey is "not a reliable partner" in Syria - Fmr anti-ISIS Envoy McGurk

U.S. President Donald Trump's declaration victory of the Islamic State (ISIS) and direction of U.S. forces to withdraw from Syria after a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, creates conditions for ISIS to thrive, Brett McGurk, the former envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS wrote in Washington Post on Friday.

"He (Trump) bought Erdogan’s proposal that Turkey takes on the fight against the Islamic State deep inside Syria. In fact, Turkey can’t operate hundreds of miles from its border in hostile territory without substantial U.S. military support," McGurk said.

Concerning Trump's latest 20-mile safe zone proposal, which Erdoğan applied for the situation, the former envoy said there is no force ready to ensure such safe zone as U.S. troops prepare to leave. 

According to McGurk, a safe zone cannot be established by Turkey since the planned zone encompasses all Kurdish-controlled areas of eastern Syria.

"Many of the Syrian opposition groups backed by Turkey include extremists who have openly declared their intent to fight the Kurds, not the Islamic State," he said, "and entry of Turkish-backed opposition forces would likely displace thousands of Kurds, as well as threaten vulnerable Christian communities interspersed in these areas," he added.

Turkey is "not a reliable partner" in Syria, according to the former envoy. "The Syrian opposition forces it backs are marbled with extremists and number too few to constitute an effective challenge to Assad or a plausible alternative to the SDF," he said.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is a multi-ethnic force that is an indispensable ally for the United States in the coalition against the extremist jihadist ISIS. However, the force is organically linked to the predominantly-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a group seen by Turkey as the Syrian wing of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

He also mentioned the increasing domination of groups linked to al-Qaeda in the areas that Turkey "ostensibly" controls. 

Regarding Turkey's concerns over its security, McGurk said the United States can help Turkey to protect its borders. However, entry of Turkish military and Turkey-backed Syrian armed groups into SDF-controlled territories in northeast Syria "would precipitate chaos and an environment for extremists to thrive".