A new piece at The National Interest co-authored by Joseph Votel looks at the problems with the “safe zone.”
Turkey and the United States have agreed to establish a joint operations center to coordinate efforts to carve out a safe zone stretching more than 250 miles along Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey. Much of the region is controlled by the Syrian Kurdish militia that Turkey considers to be a terrorist organization, but which played a key role in the U.S.-led fight against ISIS. In the last few years, Turkey launched two military incursions into the area to drive back the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces from the border and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a third incursion into YPG-controlled northeastern Syria, where hundreds of U.S. troops are stationed, was imminent. With the recent deal, a major point of contention between the United States and Turkey seems to be softening. Down the road, however, disagreements will flare up. For any deal in northeastern Syria to work, it has to provide a sustainable solution to U.S. and Turkish security interests and address Kurdish concerns. The current agreement fails on all counts.