Possible Turkish operation ‘will involve all of Syria’, says Kurdish commander
Any new military operation Turkey would launch into Kurdish-held areas in north and east Syria would not be limited to Syrian Kurds, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander Mazloum Abdi told reporters on Friday.
“This time around it won’t be the SDF’s and the Kurds’ war, it will become all of Syria’s war. The war will be for all who don’t want Syrian territory to be invaded,” Mezopotamya Agency cited Abdi as saying.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced intentions to “complete the weaker parts of (Turkey’s) security line” along its southern borders with Iraq and Syria in June, later clarifying that Syrian Kurdish towns of Tel Rifaat and Manbij would be the focus of a new operation soon.
“The Turkish state continues its efforts at the border, initiatives and threats,” Abdi told reporters. “They have amassed troops at the border region. We believe they have not attacked until now, because they could not find the opportunity to do so.”
The attack could come in as soon as “a few days”, Abdi said. “They may have postponed it a bit, but after they reach their other goals and find an opportunity, we believe they will launch the operation.”
Turkey maintains the SDF failed to comply with a ceasefire deal made in 2019, when Kurdish forces agreed to fall back from the Turkish border and allow a so-called buffer zone between Kurds and Turkey, with mediation from Russia and the Syrian government.
“Looking at the actual agreement, we can see that it is Turkey that failed to comply and violated it,” Abdi said, adding that SDF-controlled territory had been targeted in hundreds of drone strikes in the last month, and that six civilians had been killed in these strikes.
“Turkey’s occupation areas have become a veritable safe zone for ISIS,” Abdi said. “Many top level ISIS cadres, including Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, have been killed in these areas, showing us who fails to comply with the ceasefire.”
According to the commander, Kurdish forces have withdrawn 32 km, and allowed Syrian government forces to take their place. “Claiming our forces have not complied aims to tear Syria apart and prevent a solution,” Abdi said.
There are thousands of ISIS members in prison camps in SDF-held areas, where security would suffer greatly in case of a Turkish operation, Abdi said.
“We cannot fight in two fronts. If there are attacks (by Turkey), we cannot keep up the joint fight against ISIS,” he continued.
SDF has been the main boots on the ground in the fight against the jihadist group, with military support from the U.S.-led International Coalition against ISIS. Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria, which led to a Turkish operation, was condemned by both sides of the aisle in Washington for abandoning the SDF and Syrian Kurds, the United States’ long-time allies.