Turkey Targets Kurds in Afrin
by Sarah Warren, Foreign Policy Contributor
Turkey has threatened to launch an attack on Kurdish forces on the border with Syria. This could significantly impact the seven-year-old Syrian civil war as well as put Turkey at odds with its NATO ally, the United States.
The Kurds are one of several indigenous peoples of the plains and highlands which are now northeastern Syria, northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, and southwestern Armenia. Despite having no standard dialect, they remain a distinct community, united through culture and race. Most are Sunni Muslims. They have no home state, but have forged communities and enclaves for themselves in the region.
In 2013, the Islamic State targeted several of these enclaves in north Syria. Over the course of the year, it launched repeated attacks before being repelled in 2014 by a newly-formed Kurdish militia.
Turkey considers this U.S.-backed Kurdish militia, called the People’s Protection Units, a terrorist group. Though the militia denies the claim, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says it is an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party and has vowed to “suffocate” the militia, which controls much of northeastern Syria. The militia is part of an alliance with several ethnic Arab militias called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Its fighters have captured hundreds of miles of territory from the Islamic State with the aid of U.S. airstrikes.
On Saturday, news emerged that U.S., as part of its support for the Kurds, was helping establish a “border security force” 30,000 strong. This news appears to have spurred Turkish officials to finally act on their long-standing dislike and distrust of the Kurds