Turkish military operation in Syria revives fears of the return of ISIS

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) — After the Turkish military launched a “spring of peace” military operation in Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria on Wednesday, renewed international and Western fears, especially the return of the Islamic State, as fighting the extremist group was largely the responsibility of Kurdish units.

With the US withdrawal and the outbreak of the conflict with Turkey, the Kurds are afraid to undermine their gains against the jihadists.

Kurdish forces also have the task of monitoring captured jihadists and their families in camps in northern Syria, including the Houl and Ain Issa camps, which are close to the area Turkey is seeking to control.

US president Donald Trump has suggested during a press conference that he is not worried about thousands of Isis fighters in Syria “as they are going to be escaping to Europe”.

His remarks come amid fears that by pulling US troops out of Syria, more than 10,000 Isis fighters, currently guarded by Syrian Kurdish and American soldiers, would be freed.

The Kurdish fighters, together with Syrian opposition troops (SDF), helped a US-led Western coalition to beat Isis in Syria.

However, this week the US announced it would withdraw its forces from Syria, removing oversight of the jailed Isis fighters too.

The withdrawal prompted Turkey on Wednesday to attack the Kurdish area in northern Syria, pushing Kurdish fighters to flee the area, leaving the Isis fighters unguarded.

But Trump did not seem to see a problem in this, saying they would go to Europe.

“That’s where they want to go. They want to go back to their homes,” he said.

Trump also said that he had given Europe four chances to take their Isis fighters back.

“But Europe didn’t want them from us. We could have given it to them, they could have had trials, they could have done whatever they wanted. But as usual it’s not reciprocal,” he said.

The rebirth of Isis

In February 2019 Trump had asked Europe to take back 800 Isis fighters with European nationalities, after he declared a total victory over the so-called Islamic State.

France responded that it was prepared, but it is unclear how many fighters actually did go back to France.

Other countries, such as the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, were much more reluctant. They preferred the Isis fighters to be tried in Iraq instead.

However, now that US troops pulled out of Syria and Syrian Kurdish fighters are fleeing Turkish attacks, fears are growing that Isis might regroup.

American intelligence officials told NBC that they fear “a replay of what happened in Iraq between 2010 and 2013, when the core group who founded Isis were released or escaped from detention after US forces left the country”.

With 12,000 Isis fighters, Kurdish Syria is currently keeping the highest concentration of terrorists worldwide.

EU tells Turkey to cease attack

In the attack that started on Wednesday, Turkey is advancing in the northern part of Syria, east of the Euphrates, a territory currently in the hands of the Syrian Kurdish YPG.

The Turkish army has confirmed “launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates river” adding it had hit 181 “militant targets”.

Turkish president Racip Teyyep Erdogan earlier announced he wanted to create a safe zone in this part of Syria in order to give Syrian refugees in Turkey the chance to go back to their home country.

The fact that these Kurdish fighters played a crucial role in the fight against Isis does not seem to bother president Trump.

After the start of the attack he issued a statement saying that “The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea.”

However, he added that Turks and Kurds “have been fighting each other for centuries”.

Concerning the US debt to Kurdish fighters, he said: “They didn’t help us in the second world war, they didn’t help us with Normandy … but they’re there to help us with their land.”

Hungary veto?
The European Union reacted five hours after the start of the Turkish attack. The common resolution was reportedly delayed because of a veto from the Hungarian government.

Hungarian MEP, Katalin Cseh, tweeted: “Another attack on EU unity: Hungary today vetoed resolution warning Turkey not to attack Northern Syria. Again the EU appears to be a lame duck thanks to Orban, who continues to back Erdogan as well as Russian foreign policy interests. Irresponsible and treacherous as always.”

Later on, an agreement was found and a statement of the high representative was published on behalf of the EU.

In the statement the EU “calls upon Turkey to cease the unilateral military action,” adding that “renewed armed hostilities in the north-east will further undermine the stability of the whole region, exacerbate civilian suffering and provoke further displacements.”

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said in the European Parliament that “if the plan involves the creation of a so-called safe zone, don’t expect the EU to pay for any of it.”

In the meantime, Jenan Moussa, a journalist for Anbar news, reported that thousands of Kurdish Syrians are currently fleeing their homes.

This might be just the start of a new wave of refugees.

Online:

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