Jennifer Cafarella with Leah Danson | ISW
Key Takeaway: Turkey is unraveling America’s anti-ISIS partner in northern Syria in order to position itself as a major power broker in planned operations to retake Raqqa City.
Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) crossed into Syria to seize the ISIS held border town of Jarablus alongside numerous Turkish- and U.S.-backed Syrian armed opposition groups on August 24.
The operation, titled Euphrates Shield, is a turning point in American-Turkish relations and the war against ISIS by fulfilling longstanding American demands for more Turkish involvement in the anti-ISIS fight.Euphrates Shield also aims to prevent the expansion of Kurdish control along the border, however.
The U.S. ordered the Syrian Kurdish People’s Defense Forces (YPG) to withdraw to the east bank of the Euphrates River in accordance with Turkish demands at the start of the operation.
Turkey is leveraging Syrian opposition groups it trusts in Jarablus and intentionally sidelining groups that joined the Syrian YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), bringing U.S.- and Turkish- backed opposition factions into direct conflict with the American-backed SDF.
The SDF opposed the Turkish incursion and attacked the joint Turkish-Syrian opposition force on August 27.
A U.S. defense official announced that the two sides agreed to a “loose” truce on August 30. An unidentified Turkish military source, however, subsequently denied the existence of any such agreement.
The Turkish intervention has meanwhile inspired local resistance against the SDF and YPG in Sunni Arab areas including Manbij City, south of Jarablus, and the northern Raqqa countryside.
Turkey may exploit this local resistance to unseat the SDF from Manbij City and replace it with a military force that opposes the YPG.