Now that the door has opened (al-Bab means door in Arabic), the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) can proceed to Raqqa. U.S. administration officials have received Turkey's proposals and are in close contact with Syria's ally Russia. It appears there will soon be a solution to the Raqqa question.
This is of course an urgent goal, but there is now another important thing that the cleansing of al -Bab presents the people of Syria: a safe haven in northern Syria. The Turkish-supported FSA has full control of the area west of the Euphrates. According to Turkish officials, there is enough land secured there by the Turkish forces and the FSA for the establishment of a sizable safe zone.
The Geneva talks could host the discussions concerning the details of an area with the capacity to provide shelter for Syrian refugees. The U.N. estimates that the number of people displaced in the last five years of the Syrian civil war is close to 7 million. Almost 3 million Syrians are in Turkey, in camps. Not all refugee camps are of the same acceptable standards, but they provide shelter for those who had to leave their homes, businesses, and schools. In Turkey, the government has started many programs to make life bearable for its guests. New language, school and jobs programs are being implemented. The government has also promised that Turkey will accept citizenship applications from refugee families according to U.N. rules and regulations.
Could all this make life acceptable for them? Of course not. As the Turkish saying goes, even if it is made of gold, a cage is no substitute for freedom. Syrian refugees need to go back to their country because it is the home they love. Remember the history of the pioneers who gave their lives to defend a stake in the wilderness during the rush to the West. Yes, home is where the heart is, and everybody's heart is in a country's mountains, valleys and seashores, and even in its deserts.
The U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, held extensive talks recently with his counterpart and other authorities in Turkey. He was told in detail about the issue of safe zones, which, in the plan offered by Turkey, requires the creation a buffer zone between the Afrin and Ayn al-Arab districts.
Safe zones were planned in Iraq and Bosnia in order to protect civilians respectively from Iraqi and Yugoslavian armies in the past. If supported by a no-fly zone too, these areas are safe havens for people in their own country. Turkey also proposes to provide hospitals, large kitchens, and other amenities for the area.
The safe zone has yet to be created because of disagreements between the U.S. and Turkish governments. The Bashar Assad regime has also opposed to it. Now U.S. President Donald Trump seems to be interested in the expense side of it. Russia is also supporting the idea. Now that Turkey and the FSA cleared the whole region of Daesh terrorists, creating safe zones in Syria is a real possibility.
Gen. Dunford should talk to President Trump as promised.