The US should apologize to the people of Turkey
The images of ammunition and weapons belonging to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) found in storage in Afrin after the Turkish Armed Forces entered the northern Syrian city are likely to remain some of the most striking images from the entire operation.
In the footage, which one can view on YouTube, we see tons of weapons and ammunition stored in a giant underground ammunition depot with 12 rooms. According to reports in Hürriyet, anti-tank missiles, ammunition, multi-barrel rockets, anti-aircraft weapons, mortar shells and cannonballs make up only a portion of what has been discovered in Afrin.
Most of the weaponry was produced by the United States and Russia. Some news reports also showed photos of weapons made in Iran and the Balkans. The circulation and exchange of weaponry is so rampant in the Middle East that it is effectively an open market for war materials.
Of course, it is not a surprise that Russian-made weaponry was found in the YPG’s inventory in Syria, despite the fact that Moscow helped keep airspace open to Turkish flights during the Afrin operation. After all, Russia has long had a direct relationship with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political wing of the YPG in Syria.
A significant portion of American materials found in the inventory was likely made up of weaponry given to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a militant group formed under U.S. supervision and made mainly of YPG elements, in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Weapons – including American-made recoilless rifles, mortars and anti-tank TOW missiles - that were supposed to be used in the fight against ISIL have ended up finding their way to the west of the Euphrates, in Afrin, near the Turkish border.
If the PKK militants had opted to engage in urban combat instead of fleeing Afrin, these weapons would have been used against Turkish forces there. In other words, weapons provided to the PKK’s offshoot by one NATO ally (the U.S.) are used against another ally (Turkey), despite the fact that the two countries refer to each other as strategic partners.
To say the least, this is a highly problematic situation in terms of NATO doctrine. NATO’s treaty foresees that if one ally is attacked, the other allies must consider it an attack targeting them as well and support the ally targeted.
However, in this example, one ally has sent a large amount of weapons to a terrorist organization that will almost certainly use those weapons against another ally.
From whatever perspective you look at it, this is not a situation that can really be permitted by an alliance. These weapons were sent to the YPG to fight against ISIL and the U.S. assured Turkey that they would not be used against Turkey and would be strictly inspected. Clearly, these assurances did not have a firm basis.
U.S. officials have barely commented on these developments. Regarding American-made weapons seized in Afrin, the U.S. owes Turkey a sincere apology and should explain the situation to the Turkish government and the Turkish people. Of course, that is if they still consider their relationship with Turkey important.