There are strong fears that Turkey’s planned ground invasion of Syria to root out US-allied Kurds could open the floodgates for the release of thousands of jailed Islamic State terrorists.
Syrian Kurdish forces have incarcerated thousands of ISIS terrorists from more than 50 countries in prisons in northeast Syria.
Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said Wednesday, “Recent airstrikes in Syria have directly threatened the safety of U.S. personnel who are working in Syria with local partners to defeat ISIS and maintain custody of over 10,000 IS detainees.
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Turkey recently launched airstrikes targeting the Syrian Kurdish military organization, the People’s Defense Units (YPG) in Syria and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “This is not limited to just an air campaign”, adding: “We will consult with our Ministry of Defense and our general staff and decide together what our ground forces should contribute, then take our measures accordingly. Earlier, Turkey’s Defense Minister, quoted by the country’s media, reportedly said the operation was continuing with some 326 enemy fighters killed so far.
Countering the resurgence of the Islamic State terrorist movement remains a top priority for the U.S. military. The US has formed an alliance with the YPG to oust ISIS, while the conflict between Erdogan and Kurdish forces in Syria could escalate from localized conflict to outright war.
Ryder noted that “immediate de-escalation is required to maintain focus on the defeat ISIS mission and ensure the safety and security of personnel on the ground engaged in the defeat ISIS mission.”
Officials at the Turkish Embassy in Washington told Fox News Digital: “We have repeatedly highlighted the threats to our national security, posed by the PKK/YPG terrorist network in Syria and Iraq. We have always called for unequivocal and genuine solidarity in the face of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”.
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The Turkish diplomat added: “Nevertheless, the terrorist organization has continued its attacks, recently targeting innocent civilians in the heart of Istanbul. As a result of the attack on November 13, 2022, six civilians were killed and 81 injured.
The US government has classified the PKK as a terrorist organization, but considers the YPG a valuable partner in the fight against the Islamic State.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price recently said, “We express our sincere condolences for the loss of civilian life in Syria and Turkey” and called for “immediate de-escalation”.
Intensive Turkish airstrikes and drones have killed Syrian Kurds and pulverized critical industries in northern Syria, Sinam Mohamad, the Syrian Democratic Council’s representative to the United States, told Fox News Digital.
Mohamad said the region’s Arabs, Christians and Kurds, who make up the region’s five million people, are “suffering”.
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She added that Turkey bombed the area 47 times from November 19 to 23 and the airstrikes killed six Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) soldiers, including two US-trained counterterrorism soldiers.
Mohamad, who is in contact with Syrians on the ground in the conflict zone, said Turkish forces have killed 15 civilians since the start of this round of airstrikes: “Turkey is now targeting vital infrastructure, power plants , grain elevators and oil and gas infrastructure.
She claimed that the Turks had attacked a hospital and they were “targeting very close to an ISIS prison. Imagine if they were targeting the prison and people were escaping. It’s a very critical situation. The international community and the UN should take action to prevent Turkey from destabilizing the region.”
A leading Turkey expert, Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, has cast significant doubt on Turkey’s rationalization for launching its most recent attacks.
“The latest terrorist attack on Istanbul was carried out by Syrian forces who were unhappy with Turkey’s turnaround because Turkey signaled that it was willing to normalize relations with [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad,” he told Fox News Digital.
He added: “Erdogan knows very well that it would be much easier to punish the Kurds instead of punishing the Syrians. We know that the Free Syrian Army is considered an ally of Turkey. If the Free Syrian Army was considered responsible [for the terror attack in Istanbul]its foreign policy doctrine would crumble.”
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The pro-Kurdish party, the People’s Democratic Party, in the Turkish parliament has tabled a motion calling for an investigation into the Istanbul bombing. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party, rejected the investigation.
All Kurdish military forces in Syria, as well as the PKK, have categorically denied any responsibility for the terrorist attack in Istanbul. SDF Commander General Mazloum Abdi, speaking exclusively to Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin, claimed the Istanbul suicide bomber was from the Islamic State.
Turkey has captured a Syrian Arab woman who Turkish authorities say confessed to the bombing. Erdogan has been accused of showing sympathy for radical Islamists operating in northern Syria.
Uzay Bulut, a Turkish political analyst and researcher for the Philos Project, told Fox News Digital: “If Kobani falls into Turkish hands, Turkey will occupy it alongside jihadist organizations, as it also does in other other Syrian cities such as Idlib and Afrin. , these Turkish military attacks against the SDF will weaken the campaign against ISIS in the region.”
According to Bulut, “the Turkish regime must be fully aware that such an occupation only helps ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups in the region.”
A Turkish official dismissed such an argument and told Fox News Digital: “We are the only NATO ally that has boots on the ground and fought ISIS. [Islamic State] chest to chest from the start.”
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Turkey’s foreign policy stature has grown in prominence within the Biden administration since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research program at the Institute in Washington, said: “Turkey is helping Ukraine militarily” against Russia.
Turkey has provided Ukraine with 50 anti-mine vehicles. Erdogan’s government also sold the Bayraktar TB2 drone to Ukraine. The unmanned aerial vehicle carries laser-guided bombs. The Turkish drone has been a powerful weapon in pounding Russian forces.
Even in light of Turkey’s improving international reputation, Cagaptay doesn’t see the Biden administration letting the Syrian Kurds dry. “Turkey’s importance to the United States has increased, and that does not mean [the] The United States has completely abandoned YPG,” he said.