The Turkish government may turn its forces loose on the main rebel group central to U.S. efforts against the Islamic State, the Institute for the Study of War warns.
Turkish security forces are currently engaged in operations against the ISIS-held town of al-bab in northern Syria but have reportedly signaled their intent to wage war on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after the operation is complete. The SDF are a proxy force of the U.S. most relied upon to retake the ISIS capital of Raqqa, and several hundred U.S. special operators are embedded with them.
“Turkey has stated its intent to shift its focus from ISIS to the Syrian Kurds after the seizure of the ISIS-held town of al-Bab in Northern Aleppo Province, which ISW forecasts is likely in the coming weeks,” the think tank warned. “A Turkish offensive to drive the SDF east could divert Turkish and SDF resources from combatting ISIS for months,” the warning update continues.
ISW continues, saying that the squabble could inadvertently benefit ISIS because “a halt to the SDF’s operations against ISIS could allow the group to retake territory in Northern Syria, divert forces to its assault on pro-regime held Deir ez-Zour City, or send reinforcements to defend Mosul City in Iraq.”