Confusion over Turkey’s role in ISIS conflict

Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces are set to march through Turkey in order to aid Syrian Kurdish fighters in embattled Kobani, Syria, which is near the Syrian-Turkish border.

Several conflicting reports have made their way out of Turkey as to the details surrounding the reinforcement. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he learned Wed., Oct. 22 that an agreement for reinforcement had been reached, but an aide to the Minister for Peshmerga in Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) told CNN that talks are ongoing.

Peshmerga is the Kurdish term for their armed fighters. These discussions involve the Iraqi KRG, Syrian Kurds, Turkey and the U.S. The aide said the exact numbers and timing are still being determined.

Kurdish fighters in Kobani have been fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army to repel ISIS forces, CNN reported. The Free Syrian Army consists of defected Syrian military personnel; they formed the Free Syrian Army during Syria’s 2011 civil war, but have since lost some power to jihadist groups entering the north of the country, Syria Comment said.

According to CNN, heavy clashes continue in northern Kobani as Kuridsh militia and ISIS fight for control. Kobani is technically under the jurisdiction of the Democratic Union Part (PYD).

The Carnegie Middle East Center described PYD as “one of the most important Kurdish opposition parties in Syria.” It was founded in 2003 by Kurdish activists and is affiliated with the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK).

President Erdogan said Kobani can only be “strategic” for Turkey, as the country “is currently accommodating all the civilians fleeing from the town, there are no civilians there.”

Erdogan also claimed the U.S. was pushing weapons to the Democratic Union Party. The PKK fought an armed struggle against Turkish government for Kurdish cultural and political self-determination.

Kurds are a minority in Turkey and long sufferers of official prejudice within the country. They are classified by the U.S., NATO and Turkey as a terrorist organization, CNN reported.

A Kurdish fighter and “media activist” in Kobani told CNN that ISIS is currently pushing towards the west of Kobani. This is forcing them to withdraw from the strategic Tall Shair Hill area. As the fight for the hill continues, neither ISIS nor the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) can take complete control of western Kobani.

ISIS is also fighting YPG in eastern Kobani. Rudaw said the YPG is the national army of Syrian Kurdistan and has tried in the past to keep the Syrian Civil War away from Kurdish-populated areas.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said U.S.-led foreign airstrikes have killed over 500 people. The airstrikes happened between Sept. 23 and Oct. 22 and targeted ISIS positions around Kobani. Most of the casualties were ISIS militants, but at least 32 civilians were also killed.

Fifty-seven Al-Nusra Front fighters were also counted among the dead.

The Al-Nusra Front, according to Stanford University’s “Mapping Militant Organizations,” was founded in 2011 by an Al-Qaeda operative; it split from the organization two years later. Today, the Al-Nusra Front sustains a heavy influence in Syria.

-Dionna Cheatham ’15, Junior Politics/Opinions Editor

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