Source: The Intercept
Five years after the start of Syria’s uprising, the Turkish military directly entered the fray last week, sending troops to occupy the northern Syrian town of Jarablus, previously held by the militant group the Islamic State. Turkey’s intervention represents a significant escalation of the conflict, as well as a sign that the country is likely to take a more aggressive approach to foreign policy following July’s failed military coup and subsequent purge.
But Turkey’s intervention is also an indication that the U.S. strategy of empowering Kurdish groups to fight the Islamic State in Syria has helped trigger an entirely new conflict, this time between U.S.-backed militias and a NATO ally.
Turkey launched its recent incursion both to take territory from the Islamic State and also to halt gains by the Syrian Democratic Forces and People’s Protection Units, Kurdish-led groups backed by the United States. The government in Ankara fears these groups will set up an autonomous Kurdish zone on its border, emboldening separatists within Turkey.
While many predicted Turkey’s government would become more inward looking following the failed coup, it seems as though the opposite may be the case. In a statement last week, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the country would be “more active in the Syria issue in the coming six months.”
Turkish-aligned rebel factions recently won a major battle to break a Syrian government siege in the northern hub of Aleppo, a region with historical ties to Turkey. With Turkish forces now directly operating on Syrian soil, it seems the conflict is entering a dangerous new phase of regional involvement.