With al-Bab taken (and his path southward cut off) Erdogan wasted no time in turning his forces in Syria again against their real target — the Kurds. Recent days saw serious fighting as Turkish military and Syrian rebels in their employ attempted to push eastward toward the northern city of Manbij.
American response to this consisted of tweeting about their soldiers in the area training the Kurdish-dominated SDF militias. Turkey failed to be impressed and continued its offensive against the very same SDF.
Weapons training for Syrian Arab fighters in N Syria today pic.twitter.com/3xk9CIA9Cz
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) February 25, 2017
— Furiouskurd (@Furiouskurd) February 28, 2017
But it seems that Russians had an idea how to stop Erdogan. Reports are coming in that SDF has agreed to hand over large swathes of its territory where it borders the Turkish occupation zone to Russian and Syrian forces.
In this way Kurds gain a shield and a buffer against Turkish military, Syrian government gains new ground and Erdogan can claim that he forced a Kurdish retreat.
It’s not yet clear how much land are the Kurds giving up. Particularly whether the city of Manbij is part of the deal, or just land to its western outskirts.
— Elijah J. Magnier (@EjmAlrai) March 3, 2017
— Conflict News (@Conflicts) March 3, 2017
In any case Manbij and surrounding areas were taken from ISIS by the SDF last year with heavy US support, including ground troops.
And yet now part of this area will be turned over by the US-backed Kurds to the Russian-backed Syrian government without a shot being fired. In a sense US expended the treasure to expel ISIS from it and Russia is reaping the rewards.
But really Washington only has itself to blame. The only reason this is happening in the first place is because US found itself completely unable or better, unwilling to restrain Erdogan and to protect its proxies who are its anti-ISIS ground force.