Civilians are fleeing northern Syria as Turkish troops advance in Kurdish-controlled areas. The offensive was made possible by the withdrawal of US troops. It has opened a new front in Syria’s eight-year-old war. So, who are the key players in this particular conflict and what are their goals? Let’s begin with Turkey: Ankara wants to establish a so called “safe zone” along its border stretching about 30 kilometers into Syria territory. This area is currently controlled by Kurdish militias. Turkey wants to clear it of Kurds – and then resettle some two million Syrian refugees there who are currently living in Turkey. Then there are the Syrian Kurds. Groups like the Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG want autonomy. The latter fought alongside the US AND Turkey against the so-called Islamic State. But Ankara’s offensive could now force Kurdish militias to throw in their lot with the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies. And there is the US. The main goal of the United States and its allies was to defeat Islamist forces in Syria, like ISIS. Washington says ISIS has now been defeated and has started withdrawing its troops from north-eastern Syria, clearing the way for the Turkish offensive.
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