Turkey Says Kurdish YPG Has Not Fully Withdrawn From Syrian Border

Two U.S.-backed sides are at odds as a crucial deadline determining Syria’s future actions towards Kurdish forces comes close. The YPG has been occupying a strip of territory along the Turkish-Syrian border and has been ordered by both Turkish and Russian officials to evacuate by 6 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

Presidents from both Russia and Turkey reached an agreement a week before implicating the involvement of physical force on the YPG if the deadline was not met on time. According to Reuters, Syrian border guards, as well as Russian military police, would be prompted to forcibly remove the YBG and clear the organization’s weapons if they remained at the border after Tuesday.

The area occupied by the YPG is considered the “safe zone,” the setting for Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, which launched on October 9, 2019.  According to the Anadolu Agency, Turkey is coordinating with the Syrian National Army to fight against the PKK/YPG. The operation also aims to “enable [the] return of Syrian refugees to their country via safe zone.”

The YPG, a major sector of the Syrian Democratic forces, was supported by the United States as well as other Western countries because of their fight against ISIS. According to The Kurdish Project, the YPG is classified as a “democratic socialist organization in which Officers are elected by troops and equality regardless of gender, religion and ethnicity is guaranteed.” The organization is also a part of the overall movement of Kurdish people to obtain autonomy.

Turkey classifies the YPG as a terrorist organization because of its links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). According to the Daily Sabah, the PKK “has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years, resulting in the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women and children.” Turkey is a longtime ally of the United States. However, groups linked to the PKK have been openly supported by the U.S. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.

Because of the United States pulling its essential military presence from Syria, Ankara, Turkey’s capital, established its offensive along with Russia. According to Reuters, “NATO allies criticize Ankara’s actions, fearing it will undermine the fight against the Islamic State.”

Since the Sochi agreement, Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States Vice President Mike Pence have both predicted that the conflict on the northeastern border will be resolved, according to Reuters. Putin said that the deal was “very important, if not momentous, to resolve what is a pretty tense situation which has developed on the Syrian-Turkish border.” Pence received a letter from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) officially confirming the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from the border.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, however, reportedly saw hundreds of Kurdish troops remaining along the restricted area and suggested that physical violence would continue if the United States failed to follow through with its promise to ensure the withdrawal of Kurdish forces. According to the Wall Street Journal, Turkey said that because of the allyship between the United States and Kurdish forces, the U.S. should be responsible for the YPG’s actions concerning the border as well as for the heavy artillery provided to them by the U.S.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Turkey’s offensive is responsible for about 300,000 people being displaced and for the deaths of 120 civilians. It has also been reported through Reuters that “259 fighters with the Kurdish-led forces had been killed, and 196 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels.” Despite these claims, however, Turkey cites that no civilians have been killed but almost 800 terrorists were.

Because of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, the dual broken allyship with Turkey and Kurdish forces and resorting to violence to gain power, civilians suffer the harsh consequences. Involving military force, heavy artillery, and government-backed rebels lead to the sacrificing of civilians, as exemplified through not only the conflict between Turkey and Kurdish organizations but also through other conflicts that are still seeing the disastrous effects of war.