Erstwhile adversaries, Turkey and Russia, came together Tuesday to lash out at US plans to help an allied Kurdish-led militia set up a 30,000-strong “border security force” in northern Syria.
Turkey’s strongman President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, lashed out at Washington saying his armed forces would “suffocate” any US effort to begin training members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a multi-ethnic alliance mostly comprises Kurdish fighters.
“The US has acknowledged that it has now established an army of terror along our country’s border. It’s up to us to drown this terrorist army before it is born,” said Erdogan as Turkey’s armed forces prepare to launch a military operation in northern Syria.
Moscow – a key player in the region and the main backer of the brutal regime of Syria’s dictatorial President Bashar al-Assad – called Washington’s plan a “dangerous risk” that could lead to an even deeper split within Syrian civil society.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said that the US initiative to create Syrian Border Security Force with the SDF implies “the separation of large territories from the rest of the Syrian Arab Republic”.
“Washington’s initiative to help the SDF set up an independent Border Security Force would mean isolating huge areas along the borders of Turkey and Iraq and to the east of the Euphrates River, which are currently under the control of the SDF. But the relationship between the Kurds and Arabs within the group are very tense…the US announcement that the territory will be controlled by different groups under American leadership, causes concern that the aim of the initiative is to divide Syria,” said Lavrov.
The US-led coalition said the new 30,000-strong security force will play a key role in preventing the resurgence of ISIS in northeastern Syria.
The plan could provoke an increasingly edgy Erdogan into using Turkey’s ground forces deployed in northeastern Syria for a major military operation against the city of Afrin, where unverified reports indicate that up to 10,000 Kurdish People’s Protection Units – or YPG – and Syrian Democratic Forces fighters are based.
Turkey considers the pro-democratic YPG and SDF to be existential threats and has included the two alongside ISIS and radical jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra as terrorist organisations.