Turkey wants the United States to drop its support for the Kurdish rebels in Syria, in their fight against Islamic State. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its militia forces, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) have acted as ground forces for the U.S.-led airstrikes, since 2014. Military analysts regard the YPG as the most effective regional militia fighting Islamic State (ISIS), and the Western alliance has sought to bolster the YPG, providing it with arms and advisors, in lieu of formally committing ground forces to Syria.
The U.S. vice president’s visit seems to have achieved at least one major Turkish objective. In Ankara, Biden made it clear that the U.S. new position is that the Syrian Kurdish forces must return to east of the Euphrates river after seizing control of the Syrian town of Manbij. Ankara has said it expects Syrian Kurdish fighters to withdraw across the river after the Manbij victory by the U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday that Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters were retreating to the east of the Euphrates river, Turkish Foreign Ministry sources said. In an early morning call, the two emphasized that the fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq would continue together, the sources said.
Syrian rebels backed by Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes entered one of Islamic State’s last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border on Wednesday, in Turkey’s first major U.S.-backed incursion into its southern neighbor.