US National Security Adviser John Bolton is in Ankara today to discuss the US’ plans to withdraw from Syria with Turkish officials.
There will be much to discuss—Turkey is set to lead the fight against remaining Islamic State forces near Syria’s southern border with Iraq when the US withdraws its 2,000-odd troops.
But the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), not Islamic State, will be the focus of today’s discussions. The YPG has been armed and supported by the US as the primary force in the fight against Islamic State in Syria, but Turkey considers the group a terrorist organisation due to its links with Turkish Kurdish militants. With the YPG firmly entrenched in Manbij and along the Euphrates River near the Turkish border, the Turks are likely to push the US to disarm the group.
Only the presence of US soldiers deterred a Turkish military operation on YPG territory last year, meaning an assault is likely when those troops clear out. But a distracting conflict in Syria’s north between Turkey and the YPG could allow Islamic State forces to regroup to the south, which may leave Washington regretting its decision to withdraw.
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Alex is a senior analyst in the Current Developments team with a primary focus on the Americas. He also serves as an editor on The Daily Brief.