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Explained: The Turkish Offensive in Northern Syria

By: Politicized News

· Global Affairs

Following a phone call between President Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has begun a ground offensive against the Kurdish population in northern Syria. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, six civilians have been killed by Turkish bombings, along with over a combined 30 Turkish troops and Kurdish militia members. Here’s a breakdown of the complicated issue.

Who are the Kurds?
The Kurds are an Islamic indigenous population in the Middle East, currently living in northern Syria, and parts of Northern Iraq. When the Middle East was partitioned after WW1, the United States argued for an independent state for the Kurdish people, but ultimately lost the fight. More recently, the United States began to arm and train the Kurdish militia in northern Syria, leading them to become the U.S.’s greatest ally in the fight against ISIS. Since then, over 11,000 Kurds have been killed, with the militia winning back over half of ISIS-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria. The Kurds also currently hold a massive number of ISIS combatants in prisons throughout the province, leading to concern that an offensive could let them free.
What’s Turkey’s role in all this?
Turkey considers the U.S. backed Kurds in Syria to be an extension of the PKK, a Kurdish political party that their government considers a terrorist group. When President Erdogan announced his plan to occupy Kurdish controlled territory in northern Syria to establish a safe zone for refugees, he also explained his intention to begin a ground offensive to clear the area.
In order for this to work, he needed U.S. forces to withdraw from the area, a condition which President Trump agreed to.
Why did Trump’s decision cause backlash?
President Trump said that he made the decision to pull out U.S. troops because it was“time for us to get out” of Syria. Many feel that the United States has abandoned its allies in Syria, ignoring the thousands of lives lost in the fight against ISIS. The Turkish military has already begun a massive ground offensive and bombing campaign that many experts fear that without protection from the U.S. military, Turkish forces will harm the Turkish populous.

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