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JERUSALEM, Israel – Turkey’s strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plan to purge the U.S.-allied Kurdish force from northern Syria could create an Act 2 for the Islamic State terrorist movement to build a new caliphate, noted experts on the jihadi organization and Turkish power politics.
Erdogan had some harsh words on Wednesday against the U.S. He told the Turkish government-controlled news outlet Anadolu Agency: “Türkiye expects [a withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria] this as well because it is America that feeds the terrorist groups there,” in a reference to the U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish military organization—The People’s Defense Units (YPG).
Military cooperation between U.S. armed forces and the YPG was the driving force to eradicate the Islamic State (ISIS) in sections of northern Syria in 2019. The stakes are high for the Biden administration because Kurdish forces control roughly two dozen prisons in northeastern Syria that hold approximately 10,000 male Islamic State members.
Erdogan views the YPG as being aligned with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK)—an independence movement in southeastern Turkey that has been designated a terrorist entity by Turkey.
“America has to leave east of the Euphrates now. This is an outcome that came out of the Astana process,” stressed Erdogan.
The Astana negotiations continued this week at a summit in Tehran between the leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey to carve out their plan to ostensibly end Syria’s civil war.
In late May, Erdogan announced that “we’ll come down on them [YPG in Syria] suddenly one night. And we must.” The Turkish leader’s saber-rattling has a precedent.
The Turkish military has launched numerous invasions into Syria since 2016, including its 2019 “Operation Peace Spring,” to dissolve the Kurdish presence.
Nathan Sales, a former Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism as well as former Special Presidential Envoy to the Coalition to Defeat ISIS, told Fox News Digital “A Turkish invasion would be a disaster for the fight against ISIS. The SDF has 10,000 battle hardened ISIS fighters in custody. If these terrorists escape in the ensuing chaos, they will either try to rebuild the so-called ‘caliphate’ in Syria or return to their home countries to continue their jihad there.”
Turkey has faced accusations of aiding Islamic State combatants to oust the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad who, since 2011, has waged a scorched-earth policy against a civilian revolt against his regime.
Sales said “Erdogan is a bully. If he senses weakness, he will exploit it; if NATO stands up to him, he will back down. Erdogan needs economic assistance after running Turkey’s economy into a ditch, and he’s eager to buy U.S.-built F-16s [fighter planes], which gives us plenty of leverage to shape his behavior.”
Sales took the Biden administration to task for its lack of leadership in the Islamic Mideast heartland. Biden did not openly mention Syria once during his four-day visit last week to Israel and Saudi Arabia.
“The Biden administration is turning a blind eye to Syria, ceding the country to Iran and Russia. There is no substitute for American leadership, and we cannot afford to let our adversaries exploit a vacuum of our own making,” said Sales, who is an advisory member at the Vandenberg Coalition.
According to a Wednesday statement from The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi, he “expressed concerns over Turkish threats to attack northern Syria during a meeting with the Commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), General Michael Kurilla, this week.”
The Kurdish YPG military force is part of the SDF.
Mazloum Abdi noted that deterring ISIS is on shaky ground due to the Turkish threats and cited the “negative impact it will cause on the efforts of fighting ISIS.”
Erdogan is said to be determined to eliminate the SDF from the Syrian cities Manbij and Tal Rifaat near the border of Turkey. The news outlet Kurdistan 24 reported that a Turkish drone hit a Syrian government military installation in Tal Rifaat on Monday. This follows another report Friday that a Turkish drone killed up to 12 members of local Syrian forces, including some members of the SDF near Aleppo.
Uzay Bulut, a Turkish political analyst formerly based in Ankara, told Fox News Digital “In Syria, the Turkish government engages in similar aggression. Starting in 2018, the Turkish army – with the help of jihadists – invaded parts of northern Syria previously ruled de facto by Kurds. They committed crimes against Kurds, Christians, and Yazidis such as murders, kidnappings, and rapes.”
She added “Turkey has also engaged in forced demographic engineering or ethnic cleansing in those regions – driving out Kurds and replacing them with Arabs and other Muslims. Turkey’s allies (involved) in those atrocities are Islamists that want to establish an Islamic state in the region. Sadly, Turkey’s policies only lead to the empowerment of jihadists, further instability in the region, and even the destruction of innocent natives.”
The International Crisis Group (ICG) wrote in a new study “The SDF’s willingness and ability to counter ISIS is contingent on continued U.S. military support, and perhaps also lowered Turkish and regime threats to its rule.”
According to the ICG, “Fighting between Turkey and the SDF along the Syrian-Turkish border almost certainly would relieve pressure on ISIS.”
The SDF declared the defeat of the ISIS caliphate in March 2019 after seizing the Syrian town of Baghuz from the Islamic terrorist. Then-President Trump celebrated the “liberation” of Syria but warned “We will remain vigilant against” the jihadi movement.
Fox News Digital sent press queries to the SDF and CENTCOM for comment.