‘After Afrin, Americans feel threatened by Turkey’s vow to strike US-backed Kurds in Manbij’
As Turkey began its military campaign in northern Syria, the lack of US action came as little surprise, said Waqqaf, the director of the British think-tank Gnosos. “Americans have never been associated with that enclave in Afrin,” Waqqaf said, adding, there's been “no American presence, direct armament or funding.”
Yet, the US is now worried about the “announced objective of going to Manbij, which is directly affiliated with the Americans.” On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to drive what he called “terror filth” from the country “up to the Iraqi border.”
The warning is “a bit threatening to the US,” Waqqaf says. “Apparently, [the] Turks are saying they’re using their feet, telling the Americans –Look, we’re going to head on this and we hope you don’t do any military resistance, it would be a sorry situation, if we would have to shoot and be shot by an ally.”
While “there’s enough incentive for Turkey to continue” with the offensive, Washington and Ankara may still come to a compromise, Waqqaf believes. “What Erdogan said – 'there were promises in Manbij that weren’t kept, so we’re not going to stop' – that opens a door for further negotiations, perhaps to take out or further evacuate Kurdish militias from Manbij.” Ankara is “putting some pressure, hoping for some diplomatic gain from the Americans.”
However, with “no international mandate,” the US position in the region looks “untenable.” It is “a precarious situation,” with Washington not only unable to protect American-backed Kurdish militias, but also risking to lose a longstanding ally in Ankara. The Turkish government is “apparently pushing the envelope to see what happens” in Afrin, given that Syria and Russia have voiced their objections and the US being “not happy about it,” Waqqaf said.