pentagon vs turkey in north-east syria

Pentagon cuts Turkey’s access to north-east Syria airspace
Middle East Monitor, Oct 8 2019

Turkish patrol enters northern Syria, Sep 24 2019 (Photo: Emin Sansar/Anadolu)

The Pentagon has severely limited Turkey’s access to the airspace over north-east Syria, making the upcoming Turkish military operation into the area difficult without the benefit of air cover. It has taken a series of actions since yesterday which would potentially hinder the operation, with Pentagon spox Carla Gleason informing reporters that the Combined Air Operations Centre has removed Turkey from the anti-Daesh coalition’s air tasking order, through which it coordinates the flights of member nations. As well as removing Turkey from its coordination, it has also halted Turkey’s access to surveillance information, crippling its ability to accurately conduct aerial cover during its campaign. Gleason refused to directly declare that the air space was shut off to Turkey, but stated:

If you’re not on the air tasking order, it’s really hard to coordinate flights in that area.

Sec Def Esper has also involved himself in the situation by contacting Trump, Pompeo, new Joint Chiefs chair Gen Milley and NSA O’Brien regarding Turkey’s planned military incursion into north-east Syria. Esper said:

Pindostan does not endorse Turkish action. The secretary of defense will be in touch with affected allies, partners and Hill today.

The move by the Pentagon to cripple Turkish air capabilities came shortly after it okayed Turkey to proceed with the operation and started to withdraw its troops from areas in the north-east of Syria. The sudden shift in the Trump administration’s stance has confused many on all sides, reflecting the contrasting foreign policy decisions for which it has long been known. In addition to limiting access to airspace, the US has also threatened to make Turkey an “extremely decimated economy” if its military forces harm any American troops throughout the operation. Warning of the use of his “unmatched wisdom”, Trump referred to his previous affect on the Turkish economy and the devaluing of its currency last year, during the incident in which Turkey was refusing to release a detained American pastor and was purchasing the Russian S-400 missile defence system which Pindostan and NATO was staunchly against due to security concerns.

The military operation that is set to take place is the third Turkish incursion into northern Syria, following on from Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 and Operation Olive Branch in 2018, and fulfils Erdogan’s statement last week that Turkey must take its own course in setting up a safe zone in Syria. The move followed on from a warning by Erdogan on Saturday that the operation could be launched “maybe today or tomorrow,” and comes after months of the same threat being made on a regular basis. It also comes almost two months after Pindostan and Turkey struck an agreement to cooperate and work together to set up a joint cooperation centre near the Syrian border in order to establish the safe zone in north-east Syria, which is the primary motivation for Turkey’s manoeuvre. Turkey has long insisted on the establishment of the safe zone due to the presence of Kurdish militias such as the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, currently entrenched east of the Euphrates River in particular and which Turkey sees as a national security threat. This, as Erdogan sees it, would achieve two things at once: the clearing of the US-backed Kurdish militias from its border region with Syria and the placement of at least two million refugees in that safe zone, providing displaced Syrians with a new home in their country of origin. Following the announcement of the Turkish operation yesterday, Syrian opposition groups, as well as Syrian Turkmen forces, pledged their support for the operation, with Selim Idris, the Defence Secretary of Syria’s Interim Government and head of the Syrian National Army (SNA), consisting of various Turkish-backed opposition groups, stating:

We are ready for an operation to east of the Euphrates…Purging our home of terrorists is a goal we share with our Turkish brothers.

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