Any doubt that the U.S.’s anti-Daesh strategy was nothing but empty promises based on a mistaken prognosis of the problem evaporated overnight earlier this week when BBC News, in a very important reporting achievement, showed how U.S. forces in Syria not only allowed but also expedited the escape of Daesh militants surrounded in Raqqa. These were no ordinary terrorists who the U.S. allowed to escape. They were the worst of the worst and now they are free to roam all across the region and even make their way to Turkey and Europe.
The U.S.’s anti-Daesh strategy was flawed from the start. It preferred to cooperate with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian wing of a group, the PKK, it recognizes as a terrorist group. Rather than acknowledging the fact that it was trying to eliminate one terrorist group, Daesh, by using another, the PKK, it tried to argue that the two groups were not one and the same, even though they shared leadership, weapons and militants. The argument that the YPG was fighting under the umbrella group Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) ignored the fact that over 90 percent of SDF personnel is from the YPG and each and every SDF member is indoctrinated in PKK ideology. Nowadays, Syrians freed from Daesh tyranny by the SDF are pressured to accept neo-Marxist Kurdish nationalism propagated by the PKK.
It was these same SDF militants who made a deal, with U.S. consent, with Daesh so that the most dangerous Daesh terrorists can go free. As a terrorist group, the PKK has a long history of cooperation with other terrorists. It came as no surprise that the YPG found it in its interests to cooperate with Daesh. What came as a surprise is the U.S. acquiescence to such an act.
The confusion within the U.S. decision-making mechanism is obvious. The U.S.’s stated objective was to eliminate Daesh, not to free Raqqa. The U.S.-led coalition had no geographic goals in undertaking its bombing campaign. The only objective, which was fully supported by Turkey and other allies, was the elimination of the threat posed by Daesh to Turkey and Europe.
By allowing the escape of the vilest Daesh terrorists, the U.S. has once again betrayed the trust of its allies and put their citizens at risk. When Daesh strikes next in Europe or Turkey, no one can guarantee that the culprit or culprits will not be from among those of Raqqa escapees. When that happens, the world community will rightly blame the U.S.
The U.S. chose to ally with a terrorist group in front of its NATO allies, despite the fact that Turkey proposed a more legitimate and better alternative. This will prove to be the most singular mistake committed by U.S. foreign policy makers in recent history.
No one witnessed anything comparable when Jarablus, Dabiq and al-Bab were being freed by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) with Turkish support.
It is crucial for Turkey to immediately implement a range of measures to protect its interests and citizens against Daesh. U.S. policies, which have been proven to be bankrupt in light of the recent developments, have become a threat to Turkey’s security. When it comes to anti-Daesh policies, the U.S. has shown itself as an untrustworthy ally.
Not only Daesh, but the PKK boosted by the success of its Syrian wing, will become a greater danger to Turkey, all thanks to delusional U.S. policies.
The U.S. is not the enemy, but neither is it acting like a friend. Its actions are against Turkey’s interests as well as its own. Now is the right time for Turkey to formulate its own independent regional policy.
Russia and Iran with their sounder anti-Daesh and counterterrorism policies need to be at the center of measures Turkey will implement from now on. After all that’s happened, one thing is certain: The U.S. should definitely be kept out of Turkey’s regional policy concerns.