The Turkey-Syrian Conflict is one that is the byproduct of years of international conflict and entanglements, and disputes between Turkey and US-backed Kurdish forces have dramatically increased in recent days. There has been substantial news coverage over the issue, but it can be very confusing to comprehend everything that is going on. Even I have had difficulty with this. To understand this conflict, we must first take a step back in time to where it all began.
In 2011, a civil war started in Syria after non-violent protests were met with aggression from the Syrian government led by President Bashar Al Asad. Once the civil war began, many groups such as pro-government, ethnic, and religious militias, as well as the well-known Islamic Extremistic group called ISIS, sought to gain control of the country. A powerful Kurdish militia was among these groups. Out of these factions, ISIS grew most in its stronghold on the state and posed a more significant threat than any other group due to the groups’ extremely radical ideologies and goal to create an Islamic Caliphate. The United States became an ally of the Kurdish forces to defeat ISIS control in the Northern part of Syria, which the coalition was successfully able to do. After the defeat of ISIS, Kurdish forces were able to seize control of the area and mostly made it their autonomous state for the time being. The presence of Kurds in Northern Syria is what sparked tension with Turkey.
Turkey borders Syria to the North, so the residence of Kurdish Forces created tension in the region. The Turkish government believes that the Kurdish militia is aligned with a Kurdish Guerilla group known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has caused years of insurrection within Turkey. Both the United States and Turkey agree that the guerilla group is a terrorist organization, so Turkey views the US-backed Kurdish forces in Northern Syria as a security threat as well. The United States at first took on a mediator role to ease tensions on the Turkish Border. Kurdish Forces were persuaded to change their name to the Syrian Democratic Forces and encouraged to recruit non-Kurdish fighters; however, the United State’s peacekeeping role has come to a sudden end.
Recently, President Donald Trump decided to remove all American troops from the Turkish-Syrian border in Northern Syria in an attempt to ease the United States out of “endless wars,” according to Trump. The withdrawal of soldiers on October 6th granted a window for a Turkish invasion into Northern Syria on October 9th. Later, the Pentagon mandated that all American troops be withdrawn from the region. The president’s decision to withdraw troops has faced backlash from all corners, even from members within Trump’s political party. There is fear from the international community that the Turkish invasion will allow the resurgence of influence from ISIS as well as increase a stronghold in the region for Turkey, Syria and its ally Russia. There are also concerns for the protection of civilians in Syria, as they are caught in the crossfire of violence and political turmoil.