This article provides some basic background on the Turkish assault on Syrian Kurdish positions in the Afrin area of Syria North West of Aleppo.
“Mr. Erdogan fears that the Syrian Kurds would use control of much of northern Syria to support the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also known as the P.K.K., a separatist group that Turkey, the United States and the European Union all consider a terrorist group.
Here’s where things get complicated. The United States has armed a Syrian Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units, that has played a crucial role in battling ISIS.
As the fight against ISIS nears an end, Turkey fears that the militia will turn its attention toward helping its Kurdish allies in Turkey. That fear is not entirely unjustified, according to Renad Mansour, a scholar at Chatham House in London, who points out that Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party leader imprisoned since 1999, was based in Kurdish Syria for nearly two decades.
Amy Austin Holmes, a fellow at the Wilson Center who has studied the Syrian Kurds, says that many of them joined the Protection Units “for the simple reason that they wanted to defend their towns, like Kobani, that were under attack from the Islamic State, and not necessarily because they were convinced by the ideology of the P.K.K.”
Michael M. Gunter, a political scientist at Tennessee Tech who also studies the Syrian Kurds, said, “The Turks overplay the threat, but it’s not completely a figment of their imagination.”