On Saturday, Turkish forces joined rebel fighters in clearing Daesh jihadists from along Turkey’s Syrian border securing a substantial swath of territory according to reports from Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency, but the forces consisting mostly of Syrian Arabs and Turkmen fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army appear to be just as focused on beating back advances by Kurdish forces.
The rebels secured a 90km stretch of land along the border in a bid to prevent not only the flow of jihadists in and out of Turkey, but also to prevent the formation of an "artificial state" in Northern Syria controlled by US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters (YPG). The Turkish backed rebels claim to have connected al-Rai to Jarablus after the latest incursion effectively sealing the country’s border.
Turkey believes that if Syrian Kurds are able to establish a stronghold along the Turkish border this could serve as a launch pad for PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) fighters at home. The Erdogan government has labeled the US-backed YPG, with whom US Special Forces are embedded in the fight against Daesh, to be a terrorist organization that is an extension of the PKK.
The State Department contests Turkey’s appraisal of the YPG considering it to be a separate and distinct entity from the PKK, the latter of which the United States considers to be a terror group, a position that has led to substantial fraying in relations between the two NATO allies.
Last week, Turkish forces and rebel allies engaged in a feverish bombing campaign against YPG positions in northern Syria near the town of Jarablus in a bid to beat back future Kurdish opposition. The advance was immediately condemned by the United States which worries that another fault line will erupt in the Syrian conflict that has now taken on multiple fronts with mixed allegiances.
Domestically, Turkey also engaged in a vicious bombing campaign against PKK rebels near its border with Syria on Sunday in a bid to contain the group that Ankara has fought for over 30-years and in hopes of preventing Kurdish separatists from linking together with YPG units on the other side of the Syrian border.