Erdoğan adviser calls on Kurds to defect to new anti-ISIS front

Syria’s Kurds must accept the new leadership of Turkey and its allied forces in Syria in the battle against Islamic State, an adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in an unscheduled op-ed for the Washington Post.

Turkey and the Free Syrian Army will cross into Syria shortly so Kurdish militants have two options – they can defect without delay, if they are genuinely interested in fighting ISIS, or they can listen to their commanders, meaning Turkey will stop them from disrupting counter-ISIS operations, said Fahrettin Altun, Erdoğan’s director of communications. 

“Having suffered dozens of casualties in Islamic State attacks, Turkey was the first country to deploy combat forces to fight the terrorists in Syria,” Altun said late on Tuesday. “It is in our interests to preserve what the United States has accomplished and to ensure that history does not repeat itself.”

Turkey has amassed troops on its southeast border with Syria for an operation that it says will start very shortly. U.S. President Donald Trump gave the green light for the incursion on Sunday in a phone call with Erdoğan. The decision has sparked criticism that the United States has abandoned its Kurdish allies against ISIS in Syria for Turkey, which has suffered ISIS attacks but also supported Islamic militants in the country.

The Turkish military is set to enter Syria after plans for a safe zone in the northeast in coordination with the United States were delayed by disagreement.

Turkey says it will enter the country to battle Kurdish militants of the People’s Protection Forces (YPG), which it says are indistinguishable from the autonomy-seeking Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey.  The PKK is recognised as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

“Turkey has no ambition in northeast Syria except to neutralise a long-standing threat against Turkish citizens and to liberate the local population from the yoke of armed thugs,” Altun said.