WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey is unable to fight the Islamic State in Syria on its own and wants a great deal of military assistance from the US, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
In a December 14 phone conversation between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump told Erdogan that Turkey could have the job of combating the terrorist organization in Syria, while US forces pulled out.
Turkey, however, is now “asking the US to provide substantial military support, including air strikes, transport, and logistics” for its forces, the Journal said.
Indeed, Turkey wants so much help that if the US were to provide everything it is requesting, the US could be increasing, rather than reducing, its involvement in Syria.
At the same time, sharp disagreement has emerged in Ankara. Two senior commanders “were suddenly transferred to desk jobs,” because of their objections to undertaking military operations in Syria east of the Euphrates River, where Kurdish-led forces, backed by US airpower, have cleared out the Islamic State and established their own administration, Al-Monitor reported on Friday.
Upper echelons of the Turkish army are divided. Dissident officers highlight the differences between earlier military operations and any move Turkish forces might make into the area east of the Euphrates against the People’s Protection Units (YPG.), Such an operation would be infinitely more difficult and result in significantly more casualties they believe.
They also note that while Erdogan wants to fight the YPG, the US is asking Turkey to fight the Islamic State in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, far from Turkey’s borders.
At the same time, Turkey would not have a free hand against the YPG, as US officials have repeatedly affirmed they will protect their Kurdish allies.
White House National Security Adviser Amb. John Bolton is en route to Israel and Turkey to discuss the US withdrawal from Syria. In Turkey, Bolton will be joined by Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Amb. James Jeffrey, US Special Envoy for Syria Engagement.
On Friday, Jeffrey was also named to the position of Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, replacing Brett McGurk, who was slated to leave the post in February, but resigned early in protest of Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria.
The US military doubts Turkey’s ability to fight the Islamic State. Three US officers told the Journal that they did not believe Turkey has the logistical capability to move forces and supplies into the Middle Euphrates River Valley, the Islamic State’s last stronghold in Syria.
US officials are also worried that Turkey will attack the Kurds, and Jeffrey is trying to craft an understanding with Turkey that would enable it to enter northern Syria, but avoid predominantly Kurdish areas, the Journal reported.
Jeffrey has also asked the Kurdish commander, Gen. Mazloum Abdi, to postpone any understanding with the Syrian regime that would aim at protecting the Kurds from Turkish attack, while the US develops its own plan.
A senior State Department official stated on Friday that “we have no timeline” for leaving Syria, although he did affirm that the withdrawal would occur.