America's army of terror on the Turkish-Syrian border

THE EDITORIAL BOARD
ISTANBUL
Published

The U.S. administration is training an army of terrorists in northern Syria in a total breach of the country's territorial integrity and as a direct threat to Turkey's security. In response, Ankara has the right and obligation to take all necessary action to eliminate this threat.

From the beginning, Ankara has been opposed to U.S. support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is nothing but a cover for the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, which the U.S. and EU have long recognized as a terrorist group. In an email to Daily Sabah, the U.S.-led coalition's Public Affairs Office said 230 individuals are currently receiving training in the Border Security Force's (BSF) inaugural class and that the force will have up to 30,000 members – half of whom would be recruited from the SDF.

The announcement naturally fueled anger in Turkey, as officials from the president to the leaders of all mainstream opposition parties expressed concern.

Over the past three years, from when President Barack Obama was in office and now with President Donald Trump, American officials have ignored Turkey's concerns. The imminent transformation of the SDF into the BSF marks the next step in Washington's efforts to legitimize and perpetuate its cooperation with the PKK affiliate in northern Syria. The U.S. has violated its pledge to end its cooperation with the PKK's Syrian affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed People's Protection Units (YPG) as soon as the war against Daesh ends, revealing its intention to use a terrorist group to further what it misperceives as its own interests.

The U.S. failed to deceive Turkey when it created a new acronym, the SDF, as a cover for the terrorist YPG, and it will not fool anyone by creating a border force. Everyone knows that the BSF is nothing but camouflage to create a separate entity in northern Syria and no one will allow it – not Turkey, not Russia, not the Syrian opposition and not the regime.

This controversial decision will hurt U.S. interests in a number of ways. First of all, it is safe to assume that Turkish-U.S. relations will hit rock bottom in light of the most recent developments. At the same time, Washington's complete disregard for Syria's territorial integrity will likely result in the further weakening of regional stability. Finally, it will lead to the exclusion of the United States from the Middle East by disillusioned regional powers.

The Syrian people, Turkey, Russia and Iran would not be comfortable with a terrorist organization controlling northern Syria thanks to the generous support of American taxpayers.

To prevent the next Vietnam War, U.S. policymakers must resist efforts by the Trump administration, which is letting a handful of glorified bureaucrats set its Syria policy, and elected representatives of the American people must publicly raise the question why the White House is creating chaos in the Middle East.

The Syrian Kurdish people must be the first to oppose this plan, which promises nothing to them but chaos and ultimately will place their lives in danger. Policy decisions like this, which are made without taking into consideration that the PYD, the PKK's Syrian branch, does not represent the Syrian Kurdish community and puts the Kurdish people's safety and well-being in the Middle East at risk.

By providing assistance and effectively legitimizing the PKK and PYD, the United States appears to show that it has turned its back on NATO ally Turkey, arguably the strongest country in the region.

Turkey cannot afford to let the United States – or any other country, for that matter – create an army of terrorists across its southern border. Any country would be unsettled by the fact that its most important ally provides political and military support to a terrorist organization that targets its citizens, and turns it into a border security force. Under these circumstances, the international community must show due support to Turkey's military operations in the area in light of the country's legitimate concerns.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey's would soon carryout a military operation to eliminate the growing terrorist threat south of the border. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the U.S. is cooperating with a terrorist group to create an army and threaten the border of a NATO country, accusing the U.S. of acting like an enemy. The reaction from the mainstream opposition was, if anything, more critical. Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli called for immediate military action while Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Öztürk Yılmaz described the U.S. move as separatist, accusing it of trying to sow chaos in Syria, Iraq and Turkey.

It is no wonder Russia and the Syrian regime are both aware of the danger inherent in the irresponsible U.S. move and were quick to condemn Washington's policy in northern Syria.

In order to show that it means business, Turkey must launch a military operation into Afrin and other parts of northern Syria, which are controlled by the YPG-led SDF, without further delay.

In light of the most recent developments, Turkey could cooperate with Russia, Iran, representatives of the Syrian opposition and other forces on the ground to protect the territorial integrity of its southern neighbor.

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