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Jan 11 2019

Turkey is not a suitable ally for U.S. to finish off Islamic State - analyst

Ankara cannot fulfil its promise to U.S. President Donald Trump to continue the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), as Turkish government prioritises defeating Kurdish forces in Syria instead of the jihadi fighters, analyst Simon A. Waldman said in an op-ed in Hareetz on Thursday.

Ankara’s military power is also weakened as the Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters are in capable of maintaining order in Turkish-controlled areas in Syria and due to Turkish government’s purge inside the armed forces following a coup attempt in 2016, said Waldman, a visiting research fellow at King's College London.

“This highlights one of the main problems of President Trump’s decision to pull-out from Syria,” Waldman said. Turkey is not a suitable ally for United States to finish off ISIS, though Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said “Turkey could get the job done” in his op-ed published in the New York Times on Sunday.

The analyst said that during an operation against Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the northwestern Syrian province of Afrin last year, Turkey had disregarded U.S. officials warning Ankara that its military campaign could have disrupted the fight against ISIS.

According to Waldman, during the 2016-17 Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish military and Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army fighters (FSA) did battle ISIS, but their real target was to prevent the territorial gains of the YPG, which forms the backbone of U.S.-led coalition fighting against ISIS.

“Meanwhile, some of the factions that are part of that Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army are hardcore jihadists, such as Aurar al-Sham - which seeks to establish a sharia state in Syria - and are ideologically not far from ISIS and Al-Qaeda,” said Waldman. “In the past, Turkey has even been accused of recruiting former ISIS fighters into the Turkish backed Free Syrian Army,” he said.

Waldman also said that the FSA failed to maintain law and order in Afrin after the city was seized from the YPG. Reportedly Kurdish insurgent groups, Afrin Falcons and Wrath of Olives Operations Room, have been organising guerrilla attacks against Turkish targets in Afrin, which includes bombings and assassinations.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands military officers in the Turkish Armed Forces have been dismissed from their jobs and thousands of them have been prosecuted since 2016 over their links to Gulen movement, a religious group Turkish government accuses of orchestrating the coup attempt.

This ongoing purge “leaves the Turkish airforce in a tight position, especially seeing that the success of the U.S.-Kurdish partnership against ISIS consisted of Kurdish forces on the ground backed by round-the-clock U.S. air support, something that Turkey will find impossible to replicate for its own Syrian proxies,” Waldman said.