Erbil – Turkey-backed rebels on Friday attacked positions held by the pro-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Tal Rafaat District. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) accused American officers of cooperating in the incursion.
Friday’s attack was preceded by Turkish airstrikes, which hit the villages of Um al-Housh, Um al-Qura and Hasiya in Aleppo’s northern countryside. Ten SDF fighters and four civilians were killed, while dozens of others were wounded.
The Islamic State (ISIS) was pushed out of these villages in August and September as part of the SDF’s drive to reach al-Bab city. The People’s Protection Units (YPG), the lead force within the SDF, seeks to seize al-Bab and thereby connect Northern Syria – Rojava’s (NSR) canton administrations.
“Informed sources confirmed that the Turkey-backed attacks on SDF positions today were supported by American officers,” the PYD said in a statement on Friday.
Speaking about Turkey’s air raids, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told reporters: “We don’t yet fully know what transpired there. We’ll find out more as the days go on. I simply can’t give you any more than that now.”
Earlier on Thursday, US State Department spokesperson John Kirby called on the Syrian rebels and the Kurds to stop fighting each other. “We’ve called on all parties to refrain from uncoordinated movements and to focus, as I said earlier, on the common enemy, and the common enemy is Daesh,” he said.
“Both these Syrian forces and Turkey can and should operate inside the coalition, […] to focus on Daesh and not one another, and that’s what we want to see,” he said, employing an Arabic acronym for ISIS. “We don’t want to see any uncoordinated movements and these strikes would qualify as uncoordinated movements.”
Two Sides, Diametrically Opposed
The immediate goal of the Turkey-backed rebels is to preempt Kurdish territorial ambitious by capturing the ISIS-held areas between Efrin and Manbij. Their latter goal is to open a new front against the Syrian Army and the Shia militias currently laying siege to eastern Aleppo city.
“The Euphrates Shield Operation will drive the YPG out of Tal Rifaat and the surrounding area before moving eastwards towards al-Bab,” Abdurahman Harkoush, a former spokesperson for the Army of Islam, said.
These goals are irreconcilable with the widely shared Kurdish desire to establish territorial contiguity in the NSR. Kurds across Turkey condemned Thursday’s airstrikes and Friday’s incursion.
“While Turkey can and should have a crucial role in fighting ISIS, the attacks of the Turkish Army and its local [Islamic fundamentalist] allies on the SDF are providing ISIS with fresh air,” Hisyar Ozsoy, Vice Co-chair of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), told ARA News.
“Turkey has been carrying out aggressive policies to undermine [the SDF],” Ozsoy stated. “By sacrificing the peace process with the Kurds [in Turkey] and initiating militarist policies against the Kurds in Syria, who constitute the backbone of the SDF, Turkey is foreclosing the possibilities of a peaceful future and political stability.”
According to Michael Stephens, the head of the Royal United Services Institute – Qatar, the US did not cooperate in Turkey’s attacks on the SDF.
“Basically [this is] a warning sign to the YPG; If you try to join the cantons we’ll make you pay,” Stephens told ARA News. “The two sides, [Turkey-backed rebels and the pro-Kurdish SDF], have no interest in talking. Ultimately it’s a disagreement between two sides that are diametrically opposed.”
Turkey’s Target is the Self-Administration
Tensions in Northern Aleppo Governorate have reached a fever pitch. According to Stephens, the SDF and Turkey’s rebel factions “are only able to talk through military means. What you’re seeing is the geopolitics playing out in the micro.”
Nawaf Khalil, a former PYD spokesman and head of the Rojava Centre for Strategic Studies, told ARA News that Turkey views all Kurds as enemies, regardless of their relations with Iraqi Kurdistan.
Khalil shares a widespread belief that Ankara and Moscow have been cooperating to cripple Syrian Kurdish forces. “There has been a deal between Russia and Turkey to hit the Kurds, and destroy the insurgency in Aleppo,” he said.
Khalil told ARA News: “Turkey says it openly; their target is the [NSR] Self-Administration, and [their aim] is to prevent the unification of Efrin and Kobani.”
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News