Opinion | Turkey is playing with fire in Northern Syria

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Turkey’s fixation on alleged Kurdish terrorism reached a dangerous flashpoint this week, as Turkish warplanes bombed targets in northern Syria dangerously close to U.S. forces there amid a resurgence of Islamic State. Avoiding

Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi, the commander of the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, warned me on Wednesday of the threat of Turkish counterattacks in this latest escalation. After three days of Turkish bombardment, the SDF may lose its ability to maintain security in prisons and refugee camps for ISIS fighters and their families, he said.

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“These attacks have already jeopardized the mission of ISIS,” said Col. Joseph Buckino, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees the region. “One of these attacks occurred within 130 meters of US personnel, so US forces are at risk. Any expansion of these attacks will increase that risk,” Buccino told me in an email.

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Mazloum, as he is known, said that an hour before our conversation, a Turkish drone had opened fire on an SDF security checkpoint in al-Hol refugee camp, which houses families of Islamic State fighters. were He said he did not know if any of the camp’s residents had escaped, as a Turkish drone was still flying over the camp, and it was safe for US and SDF forces there to assess the damage. It was impossible.

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Mazloum said SDF forces are also “in danger right now” as they try to maintain security in 28 makeshift prisons in northern Syria that hold around 12,000 Daesh fighters. After a January break at Huska prison, more than 3,000 of those inmates escaped, and it took more than a week to capture most of them and regain control.

Turkey’s rationale for attacking the Syrian Kurds is that the SDF, and Mazlom personally, are linked to the militant Kurdish militia known as the PKK, which it claims is based in Istanbul. I was responsible for the November 13 terrorist bombing. Mazloum told me that his forces had no involvement in the attack and that he sympathized with the victims. As for the allegation that he was personally associated with PKK terrorism, he said, “these are just excuses” and that he had been working with US and coalition forces for more than eight years. are

Northern Syria is a bomb that Turkey, through its reckless actions, seems determined to detonate. When I visited al-Hole camp in April with Gen. Michael “Eric” Karella, commander of Centcom, it was home to about 56,000 people, 70 percent of whom were under the age of 18. Without Turkish bombers.

Mazloum said the Turkish offensive began on Monday with an attack on a coalition military base where US special operations forces help train the SDF. I also visited the base in April, and witnessed the combat partnership between the US and the Syrian Kurds that defeated ISIS. Kurdish-led militias paid a heavy price in the campaign, with 12,000 fighters killed, Mazloum reminded me Wednesday.

Mazloum said he expects Turkey to soon launch a ground offensive in northern Syria to gain more control over Manbij and Kobani, liberated from ISIS by the US and its SDF partners. Gone are the two regions at great cost. He said the US had a “moral responsibility to protect the Kurds from being ethnically cleansed from the region.” He urged US officials to pressure Turkey to scale back its attacks before disaster strikes.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, spoke to his Turkish counterpart on Wednesday and warned the Turks against attacking restricted areas around US troops. But a Pentagon official said there was “no sign of it.” [the Turks] Ready to de-escalate.” As Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria begins to destabilize the US-led coalition’s tenuous control over the deadly remnants of the Islamic State, a reasonable person wonders: What kind of coalition is this? ?

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