On Saturday, the Defense Post reported that the U.S.-led coalition in Syria was building a 30,000-member “border force,” made up predominantly of Kurdish and Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as well as some unspecified new recruits.
“The Coalition is working jointly with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF). Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” CJTF-OIR Public Affairs Officer Colonel Thomas F. Veale told Defense Post.
“The base of the new force is essentially a realignment of approximately 15,000 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces to a new mission in the Border Security Force as their actions against ISIS draw to a close,” he added.
Unsurprisingly, the move has rattled neighboring Turkey, which has spent more time bombing Kurdish positions than it has ISIS’ positions. On January 9, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported that the Pentagon and the CIA were allegedly training a Kurdish force referred to as the North Army. The Turkish Foreign Ministry immediately summoned U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires Philip Kosnett in response because Turkey categorically rejects a Kurdish patrol force on its border.
Once these reports began to circulate more widely following the Defense Post’s bombshell article, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “suffocate” America’s efforts to create what he viewed as a terrorist group.
Now, Turkey is reportedly planning a full-scale invasion in Syria.
“The countdown has begun for Turkey’s operation against Afrin,” said one pro-government channel, according to the BBC. Afrin is a district in northern Syria close to the border with Turkey.
“We will get rid of terror nests one-by-one in Syria starting with Afrin and Manbij,” Erdogan also reportedly said.
But there is more to the story, and it’s receiving little attention. For some time now, Russia, Turkey, and Iran have been implementing peace processes of their own in Syria without Washington’s input. After the fall of Aleppo in 2016, the aforementioned countries have essentially emerged as the real power brokers in Syria, even in light of the fact they all have opposing interests regarding the fate of the future state of the country.
Turkey, for example, has heavily invested in anti-Assad rebels in a bid to oust the Syrian president from power. Russia and Iran, on the other hand, are Syria’s staunchest backers. Despite this, Russia, Turkey, and Iran have all managed to work together to reach some sort of compromise. Even the Syrian government’s recently launched offensive in the Idlib province, which is diametrically opposed to Turkey’s interests, still did not put a dent in Turkey’s growing relationship with Iran. Erdogan came directly to Iran’s aid during the Trump administration’s attempts to exploit the recent protests in Iran.
This relationship is by all accounts a deal breaker for Washington, which is becoming increasingly irrelevant across the geopolitical chessboard. This is ultimately one of the core reasons why the U.S. wants to build a Kurdish force across Turkey’s border and rattle Turkey into issuing a response of its own.
“If the US really forms such a border force, then there will be a totally different equation in Syria,” says Ahmet Kasim Han, an academic who focuses on international relations, as quoted by the BBC.
“This would point to a process that could potentially end with the forming of a YPG-PKK state in the north of Syria. Washington should have known that Turkey would react.”
Of course, Washington knows full well that Turkey will react. However, the U.S. is not doing this to create an enemy out of Turkey, as some media angles have attempted to paint it.
Instead, there’s a reason why Turkey is talking about invading Afrin to oust the Kurds, and this plays directly into America’s hands. Right now, Russia has control over the airspace in Afrin. It also has some 300 military personnel on the ground there. According to Han:
“If Russia gives a green light, then Turkish forces could clear out Afrin in one day. Otherwise, it could turn into a nightmare.” [emphasis added]
And this is precisely what the U.S. wants – to disrupt the growing relationship between Turkey, Russia, and Iran and turn these players against each other by putting them in a compromising position. If Turkey does nothing in response to the Kurdish question, it will undoubtedly risk its territorial integrity by having a Kurdish state on its borders, which it refuses to tolerate. If it does attempt to launch an operation in Syria without Moscow’s approval, putting Russian personnel at risk, it will strain the relationship between the two countries in the not-too-distant future.
It’s a lose-lose for Turkey but a win-win for the United States, which, by all means, is hellbent on destroying any chance for peace in Syria and prolonging the violence for as long as possible.