Turkey lashes out at smear campaign by some US congressmen, media
A green light given by U.S. President Donald Trump for a Turkish military incursion into Syria during a phone conversation with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seems to have created a big mess in Washington.
Reactions to Turkey’s “Operation Peace Spring” have been based on two things: Promoting the role that the SDF, as the U.S. ally east of the Euphrates and spreading fear over the resurgence of ISIL, although Trump has already made clear the fight against the group was won.
Ankara is perfectly aware of this campaign pursued in Washington: It sees that this campaign suggests the following claims:
-Trump has left the U.S. Congress and the U.S. allies in the dark.
-The United States has left Kurds who fought against the ISIL for dead.
-The U.S. has abandoned and betrayed its ally, the SDF, in Syria.
-The Turkish army has no intention, wish or capacity to bear the responsibility in defeating ISIL.
-Released ISIL captives may form terror cells or return to Europe.
Ankara’s response to those claims
From the very beginning, Turkey has explained that it can fight against ISIL and the U.S. decision to pick a terror organization as a partner in efforts to defeat another terror organization was wrong and risky. Despite Turkey’s objections, the U.S. had preferred to align with the YPG and provided training and heavy weaponry to the group.
The YPG, however, did not hesitate to use all these weapons against Turkey, a NATO ally.
On claims that the Turkish army has no will to combat the ISIL, Ankara notes that Turkish forces “neutralized” more than 3,000 ISIL members during the Turkish army’s Operation Euphrates Shield between mid-2016 and early 2017. It also recalls that Turkey was one of the main targets of the ISIL, which has committed many bloody terror acts.
It’s also a fact that it was the YPG which has long been threatening the U.S. and other Western nations by releasing captive ISIL members or making deals with ISIL when necessary. Turkey has the intelligence that the YPG has facilitated the infiltration of around 20 ISIL members into Turkey just in the last year.
Some of these terrorists were seeking ways to travel to third countries while others were planning terror acts within Turkey. Turkish security intelligence has foiled two major attacks this year: one by the PKK in southeastern Anatolia and another by ISIL in central Anatolia.
That’s why Turkey reiterates that a state should never choose a terror organization as a partner on the proven grounds that these terror networks will always abandon their partners when they believe they have reached their targets.
Turkey’s responsibility within the safe zone
One important point Turkey is making is the fact that it won’t take the responsibility in regards to ISIL members and their family members outside of the safe zone. It’s estimated that there are around 1,500 ISIL members who are in custody at 10 different locations within the safe zone, which means 32 kilometers deep in northeastern Syria. Turkey will build safe and standardized prisons for these 1,500 ISIL terrorists.
Turkey may consider expanding the scope of its concern with regard to the ISIL captives and remnants in the case of a full withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Syria. Under this condition, Turkey and the U.S. may hold a new round of talks, but it’s too early to speculate on how things would develop or how other actors in the field, like Russia, would react to such developments. As of today, Ankara sees itself responsible for only 1,500 detained ISIL members kept within the safe zone.
Where is Europe?
On sharing responsibility, Turkey reminds of Trump’s efforts to convince European nations to get back their nationals who have been arrested during the anti-ISIL fight. It also reminds of Turkey’s warnings to all these European countries throughout 2013-2014-2015 about the intention of many of their nationals to travel to Syria as foreign fighters.
My sources recalled that these countries have never cooperated with Turkey as they were hoping that these fighters would go to Syria and be killed in clashes. Many of them have been neutralized, but Europe stays indifferent to those who are alive and kept in prisons.
That’s why Turkey will call on all these countries that it’s time to act and to have their nationals back. This call will also include burden-sharing for the infrastructure of the safe zone, which will allow the return of the Syrian refugees. Turkey is also planning to hold a donors conference to this end.