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Turkish strikes against US Kurdish allies reverberate in war in Ukraine | KOLR

 


BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) Biden administration officials are getting tough on NATO ally Turkey as they try to dissuade Turkish President Recep Erdogan from launching a bloody and destabilizing ground offensive against Kurdish forces allied with the United States in neighboring Syria.

Since November 20, after the death of six people in a bomb attack in Istanbul a week before Turkey accused, without evidence, the United States and its Kurdish allies in Syria, Turkey launched airstrikes border crossings, rockets and shells on the United States and the Kurds. patrolled areas of Syria, leaving Kurdish funeral processions to bury dozens of dead.

Some criticized the initial muted US response to the near-daily Turkish bombardment, a broad call for de-escalation as a US green light for more. With Erdogan not backing down on his escalation threat, the United States began to speak more forcefully.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called his Turkish counterpart on Wednesday to express strong opposition to Turkey’s launch of a new military operation in northern Syria.

And National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Friday made one of the administration’s first specific mentions of the impact of Turkish strikes on the Kurdish militia, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, which works with the United States against Islamic State militants bottled up in the north of the country. Syria.

How well the United States handles Erdogan’s threat to send troops against America’s Kurdish partners over the next few weeks will affect global security concerns far from this isolated corner of Syria.

This is particularly true for the conflict in Ukraine. The Biden administration is keen for Erdogan’s cooperation with other NATO partners to counter Russia, especially when it comes to persuading Turkey to drop its objections to Finland’s membership and from Sweden to NATO.

But giving Turkey free rein to attack the Syrian Kurds in hopes of securing Erdogan’s cooperation in NATO would itself have big security implications.

US forces on Friday halted joint military patrols with Kurdish forces in northern Syria to counter Islamic State extremists, as Kurds focus on defending against Turkish air and artillery attacks and a possible ground invasion.

Since 2015, Syrian Kurdish forces have worked with the few hundred forces the United States has on the ground there, reclaiming territory from Islamic State and then detaining thousands of Islamic State fighters and their families and fighting the remaining fighters of the Islamic State. On Saturday, the United States and the Kurds resumed limited patrols in one of the detention camps.

ISIS is the forgotten history of the world and the United States, because of its focus on Ukraine, said Omer Taspinar, an expert on Turkey and European security at the Brookings Institution and the National War College. ISIS is a widely used acronym for the Islamic State.

Tragically, what would rekindle Western support for the Kurds…would be another ISIS terrorist attack, God forbid, in Europe or the United States that would remind people that we did not in fact defeat the State Islamic, Taspinar said.

Turkey says Syrian Kurds are allied with a nearly four-decade-long PKK Kurdish insurgency in southeastern Turkey that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people on both sides. The Syrian Kurdish allies of the United States deny any attack in Turkey.

US Central Command and many members of Congress praise the Syrian Kurds as brave comrades-in-arms. In July, the Central Command angered Turkey by tweeting condolences for a Syrian Kurdish deputy commander and two other female fighters killed in a drone strike blamed on Turkey.

In 2019, a public outcry from fellow Republicans and many others killed a plan by President Donald Trump, which he announced after a call with Erdogan, to extricate US troops from an expected Turkish attack on Kurdish allies in Syria.

Then-presidential candidate Joe Biden was among those who expressed outrage.

The Kurds played a vital role in helping us defeat ISIS and too many have lost their lives. Now President Trump has abandoned them. Shameful, Biden tweeted at the time.

The measured US response now, even after some Turkish strikes hit near sites that host US forces, reflects the important strategic role that Turkey, as a NATO member, plays in the efforts of the United States. alliance to counter Russia in Europe. The State Department and USAID did not immediately respond to questions about whether the Turkish strikes had hampered aid workers and operations in partnership with the United States.

Turkey, which has close ties with Russia and the United States, was a key contributor to the efforts of its NATO allies against Russia during the conflict in Ukraine. This includes providing armed drones to Ukraine and helping mediate between Russia and the United States and others.

But Turkey is also seeking to exert influence within the alliance by preventing Finland and Sweden from joining NATO. Turkey is demanding that Sweden hand over Kurdish exiles it says are affiliated with Kurdish PKK insurgents.

Turkey’s official news agency reported that Sweden had extradited a PKK member and that he was arrested on Saturday upon his arrival in Istanbul.

Turkey is one of only two of the 30 NATO members that has not yet signed the Nordic countries into NATO. Hungary, the other, should do it.

At a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Bucharest, Romania, last week, NATO diplomats refrained from publicly confronting Turkey, avoiding offense which could set back further the cause of Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs made it clear to his European counterparts that Turkey had not yet been appeased, with regard to the reception in Finland or Sweden of Kurdish exiles.

We reminded that ultimately it is the Turkish people and the Turkish parliament who have to be convinced, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on the sidelines.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to hold talks with the foreign ministers of Finland and Sweden on Thursday on handling Turkey’s objections to NATO membership.

Experts say the Biden administration has a lot of leverage to wield privately in urging Erdogan to cave in to the threat of an escalating attack on Syrian Kurds. That includes sales of American F-16 fighters that Turkey wants but opposes by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez and other members of Congress.

There is a third major security risk in the United States’ handling of the threat of invading Turkey, as well as the possible impact on the conflict in Ukraine and on efforts to contain the Islamic State.

This is the risk for the Kurds, a stateless people and a frequent ally of the United States, often abandoned by the United States and the West during past conflicts of the last century.

If the United States stands idly by while Turkey escalates its attacks on the Syrian Kurds who have been instrumental in suppressing the Islamic State, particularly in the aftermath of Afghanistan, what message are we sending to the Middle East ? asked Henri J. Barkey, an expert on Kurds and Turkey at the Council on Foreign Relations and Lehigh University.

And to all the allies in general? Barkey asked.

An ethnic group of millions at the intersection of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, the Kurds lost their own state as the United States and other powers carved out the remnants of the Turkish Ottoman Empire after World War I.

Saddam Hussein and other regional leaders have used poison gas, airstrikes and other tools of mass murder over the decades to suppress the Kurds. As under US President George HW Bush in 1991 after the Gulf War, the United States sometimes encouraged popular uprisings, but stood idly by as Kurds died in the resulting massacres.

On November 28, hundreds of Syrian Kurds gathered for the victims of one of the Turkish airstrikes, five guards killed while securing the al-Hol camp, which houses thousands of family members of fighters. Islamic State.

Relatives of one of the Kurdish guards, Saifuddin Mohammed, placed his picture on his grave.

Of course we are proud, said his brother, Abbas Mohammed. He defended his land and his honor against the invading Turkish forces.

Abby Sewell and Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Lorne Cook in Bucharest, Aamer Madhani, Matthew Lee and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, and Hogir al Abdo in Qamishli, Syria contributed to this report.

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