The Turkish invasion of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, also known as Rojava, has seen heavy fighting rage for several days now as the local Syrian Democratic Forces and Kurdish YPG fight for their survival. But events have escalated today at such a rapid pace that it is sensible to write about them alone just to try and preserve a record.
As 130,000 thousand people flee in front of the Turkish invasion, the USA announced that they would be pulling all of their troops out of the country as the Turkish invasion force, spearheaded by Syrian militias, advanced. The withdrawal may have been expedited by the Turkish army almost shelling American Special Forces, a move that many commentators believe was deliberate.
The announcement was followed by the news that a major holding camp of ISIS sympathisers and families had come under attack by Turkish forces, allowing nearly a thousand to escape.
Heavy fighting was reported at a number of key border towns, with conflicting reports from both sides. But the Turkish Free Syrian Army (TFSA) militias did succeed in penetrating as far south as the M4 road, effectively cutting communications along the border area.
The nature of these militias has also raised a great deal of concern. Composed of questionable Islamist groups, there are allegations of war crimes being committed, as well as the murder of a woman politician and civilians at a road block.
The Turkish Air Force is also accused of striking a convoy containing air workers and journalists.
The Turkish assault has drawn widespread condemnation. Both France and Germany, along with several other nations, have imposed an arms embargo. The EU is also considering a total embargo for all member states. Additionally both Spain and Italy have announced that they are pulling their Patriot Surface to Air missile batteries out of Turkey in protest to the invasion.
With their defences at breaking point and abandoned by their former allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces have apparently struck a deal with the Assad regime and Russia to allow the Syrian Army back into the Autonomous zone and to resume authority.
As the commander of the SDF said:
“We know we would have to make painful compromises with Moscow and Assad if we go down that road. But if we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life”.
There are reports that SAA force are now moving into Manbij, Hasakah had been transferred to SAA control and that the Russians are providing air cover to keep off Turkish fighter bombers.
Now it remains to be seen if the Turks are determined to continue to push their invasion, and whether the Syrians and Russians have the determination to stop them if they do.
Ed Nash has spent years travelling around the world and, on occasion, interfering as he sees fit. He has taught English in remote Indian schools, nearly been struck by lightning on horseback in the mountains of Lesotho and worked with ethnic minorities in Burma. Between June 2015 and July 2016 he volunteered with the Kurdish YPG in its battle against ISIS in Syria. His book on his experiences there, Desert Sniper, was published by Little, Brown in September, 2018.