|Moon of Alabama | Jan 18, 2018|
|Afrin (topographic) bigger |
yellow - Kurdish control, grey - Turks,
red - Syrian government, green - al-Qaeda
The threat is not serious:
- Afrin is mostly mountainous.
- Pictures from Turkey showed (scroll down) the unloading of some tanks near to Afrin but within Turkey. These were old M-60 tanks. They have been slightly upgraded by Israel but can be knocked out by modern Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) and certainly by Anti Tank Guided Missiles. (ATMG). These tanks would get slaughtered should they enter the tricky Afrin terrain.
- There are several tens of thousands of Kurdish fighters in Afrin. They are well armed.
- Afrin is under formal protection of Russian and Syrian forces.
- The real danger to Turkey is not Afrin but the much larger Kurdish protectorate the U.S. publicly announced in north-east Syria.
The two real issues the wannabe-Sultan Erdogan has are:
- the upcoming meeting of Syrian opposition and government parties in Sochi and
- the U.S. backing of the PKK/YPG terrorists in north-east Syria.
The second issue only came up again because of military bombast at CentCom and some uncoordinated and unsound U.S. policy:
On Sunday, the U.S.-led military coalition battling Islamic State issued a statement trumpeting the creation of the 30,000-strong “Border Security Force.” But the announcement, which triggered Turkish denunciations, caught officials in Washington off guard. On Wednesday, U.S. officials said the coalition’s declaration was misguided—and the Pentagon issued a statement trying to calm Turkish fears.This was not the first time the Central Command in the Middle East acted in a overtly hawkish and bombastic way without considering the wider strategic impact. Turkey is a NATO member and to announce the installation of a terrorist force to guard a NATO border from the outside is just nuts. For years now the Pentagon has given way too much leash to CentCom and needs to tighten control over it.
“This is not a new ‘army’ or conventional ‘border guard’ force,” the Pentagon statement said.
The "border guard" force has now been renamed an internal security force which will also make sure that none of the ISIS fighters in the area, which Washington diligently keeps alive in the Syrian east, will escape across the border to evade their next assignments.
Yesterday Secretary of State Tillerson announced the official "new" U.S. position on Syria. It is essentially a recap of the position the Obama administration had long held and does not make any more sense:
Speaking in a major Syria-policy address hosted at Stanford University by the Hoover Institution, Tillerson listed vanquishing al-Qaeda, ousting Iran and securing a peace settlement that excludes President Bashar al-Assad as among the goals of a continued presence in Syria of about 2,000 American troops currently deployed in a Kurdish-controlled corner of northeastern Syria.(The real number of U.S. troops in Syria is around 5,000 soldiers plus an equal number of 'contractors'.)
Other listeners detected even wider ambitions :
The United States has five key goals in Syria, Mr. Tillerson said. They are: ensuring that the Islamic State and Al Qaeda never re-emerge; supporting the United Nations-led political process; diminishing Iran’s influence; making sure the country is free of weapons of mass destruction; and helping refugees to return after years of civil war.These goals are mutually exclusive. Nothing will happen in the UN process in Geneva as long as anyone insists in removing the Syrian President Assad. Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria are a consequence of U.S. action and (covered) presence in the country. Iran currently has little presence and limited influence in Syria. It would only increase again should the U.S. try to militarily attack the Syrian government. Refugees will not return as long as the U.S. threatens to again widen the war.
I have yet to read one analyst who believes that the U.S. administration can achieve any of the wishes it announced. It is a hapless policy of "doing something" which will fail when resistance on the ground will ramp up and the political costs of the occupation will become apparent. The YPG Kurds in the north-east, who agreed to their occupation, will be the ones who will have to to bear the wrath. All other parties involved in Syria will hold them responsible.
For now the new announcement and its botched presentation only helped Erdogan to again play to his crowd. None of this will be of much consequence.