The White House has recently stated that Turkey is planning on invading northern Syria, sparking concerns for the well-being of Kurds in the area. The statement follows a phone call between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan several days ago.
Currently, the US has around 1,000 soldiers stationed in northern Syria playing a number of key roles in the area. Many of these soldiers, and many others, worked with Kurdish fighters combatting Islamic State (IS) forces between 2014 and 2018.
There are legitimate concerns for the well-being of the Kurds who live in Northern Syria, should Turkey invade. As Turkey has a long history of conflict with Kurds in Turkey and in Syria, many of whom the Turkish government considers terrorists, it’s likely a crackdown would occur and result in a significant number of deaths.
The People’s Protection Units (YPG), consisting of a majority of Kurds, will not simply surrender; just as they fought against IS, they’ll fight against Turkish forces.
But, why does Turkey want to invade northern Syria? The answer is simple: as Turkey has had a long history of fighting against separatist Kurds within Turkey, it sees the Kurds in northern Syria, who are linked to separatists in Turkey, as threats.
President Erdogan does not want these groups controlling areas bordering with Turkey. Furthermore, the small fledgling state being molded by the Kurds in Northern Syria is something the Turkish government wants dismantled.
Overall, the Kurds have been an extremely important ally in the US’ efforts to eliminate IS in Syria. Currently, Kurdish forces control around one third of the country and are largely autonomous in several large areas.
Should the US abandon the Kurds in Syria, its unclear exactly what decision they would take. With Turkish forces to the north and Syrian government forces to the south and west, a deal with Assad is one of the most likely options the Kurds will elect to use.