Kurds Fall Back in Northern Syria as Turkey Demanded

FLE - In this Sunday, March. 3, 2013 file photo, Kurdish female members, foreground and background, of the Popular Protection Units stand guard at a check point near the northeastern city of Qamishli, Syria. Syria’s Kurds have dramatically strengthened their hold on the far northeast reaches of the country, carving …
AP Photo/Manu Brabo, File

Turkey has been shelling the United States’s most effective allies in Syria, the Kurdish YPG, and demanding they withdraw east of the Euphrates or face even stronger actions — a threat backed up by Turkish tanks rolling across the Syrian border, to the consternation of Damascus.

Fox News reports that the Kurds appear to have complied with Turkey’s demands and begun withdrawing, a process to be completed over the next two weeks (emphasis added):

Amid a fence-mending visit from Vice President Biden, Erdogan’s tough rhetoric against the Kurds, a reliable and effective American partner in the fight against ISIS, appeared to force the U.S. to choose sides in the separate, and longstanding fead between its allies.

Erdogan had demanded that the Kurds, linked to a political group accused of committing acts of terrorism inside Turkey, move back across the river and away from his nation’s western border with Syria. The call came despite Kurdish forces’ effectiveness in fighting ISIS on the western side of the river.

Biden, in Turkey Wednesday to smooth relations as Ankara demands extradition of a U.S.-based cleric it accuses of plotting last month’s failed coup, echoed Erdogan’s call on the Kurds to leave Arab lands in Syria and return east of the Euphrates to traditional Kurdish territory. The vice president even threatening to cut off supplies to the Kurds if they didn’t fall back.

Fox News notes there are a number of U.S. special operations troops embedded with the YPG.

“Late last week, Syrian jets from President Bashar al-Assad’s Air Force bombed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria with US special operations forces nearby, according to a US defense official, in another sign of the increasingly complex battlefield in Syria. US jets were sent to the area in response,” the Fox reported added.

The battlefield got really complicated for the Kurds when America’s NATO ally opened fire on them Thursday, as reported by Reuters:

Syrian rebels backed by Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes entered Jarablus, one of Islamic State’s last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border, on Wednesday.

But President Tayyip Erdogan and senior government officials have made clear the aim of “Operation Euphrates Shield” is as much about stopping the Kurdish YPG militia seizing territory and filling the void left by Islamic State as it is about eliminating the ultra-hardline Islamist group itself.

A Turkish security source said the army shelled the People’s Protection Units (YPG) south of Jarablus. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu agency described the action as warning shots.

Turkey continues to insist the YPG is allied with the violent Kurdish PKK separatists inside Turkey and fears the two forces would be able to link up if the Syrian Kurds hold territory on the Turkish border. Turkish officials, like Defense Minister Fikri Isik, declared that the YPG militia “should not replace Islamic State” with a Kurdish state.

“Turkey’s stance has put it at odds with Washington, which sees the YPG as a rare reliable ally on the ground in Syria,” Reuters adds, although, the Kurds might not be getting quite that impression of Washington’s esteem at the moment.