As Turkey amasses troops on the border, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militias have called on Damascus to intervene. Until recently the YPG enjoyed the protection of the US troops, who were deployed in the Kurdish northeast.
In a statement on Friday, the YPG said that Syrian Army troops should enter the areas, from which the Kurdish militias have previously withdrawn.
“We invite the Syrian government forces, which are obliged to protect the same country, nation and borders, to assert control over the areas our forces have withdrawn from, in particularly Manbij, and to protect these areas against a Turkish invasion,” the statement said.
Commenting on the developments in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow expected that both Washington’s decision to pull out troops and Turkey’s actions would be taken with an ultimate goal of fully restoring Syria’s national sovereignty.
The YPG, or People’s Protection Units, are the militias of Syrian Kurds and the dominant part of the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) – the troops who played the role of ground forces in the US military operations in northeastern Syria. As allies of Washington, the YPG had a degree of protection from Ankara, which considers them to be terrorists.
For the Turkish government, all Kurdish paramilitaries are a threat regardless of whether they operate in Turkey itself, Syria or Iraq. Ankara has been dealing with the insurgency of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for decades and sees all Kurdish militias as an extension of the PKK.
The balance of power in northern Syria tilted this month after US President Donald Trump announced that American troops would be withdrawing from the area. The move came after Ankara announced it would launch a new operation targeting the YPG, saying the move was justified by America’s failure to rein in the Kurds.
After the US announced its withdrawal, Turkey amassed a large military force on its southern border, but has not yet launched an offensive.
The 2,000 US troops are still on the ground in Syria too, which may explain the lull in the gathering storm.