US, Turkey Agree on Two Security Zones in Northern Syria
Col. Christopher Garver, the official spokesman for the US-led coalition against ISIS, issued a puzzling statement on June 5. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) aim to recover the city of Manbij in northern Syria, he said, but had no plans to advance further north.
Why stop there, well short of the Turkish border? Is there no plan to rip ISIS out of territory all the way up to that border?
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources have found the answer to this conundrum and reveal here for the first time that the US and Turkey have come to a secret agreement to establish two security zones that will encompass the area from north of Aleppo up to the Turkish border.
Since this plan was conceived by retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who advises the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, the Obama administration prefers to avoid any public association with it.
What Flynn said earlier this week was this: ’If we know that their headquarters exist in a place called Raqqa, Syria, we should eliminate – we should destroy Raqqa, Syria. We should create, you know, safety zones, flight zones, whatever, both ground and air.”
Our sources report that the first zone will be held by the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Ankara-backed Turkmeni militias under Turkish command. Turkey will provide air and artillery cover and backup from its tank and missile units. (See attached map)
This security zone will run 98km from Manbij to Jarabulus. This week saw heavy fighting aimed at seizing from ISIS hands control of the highway connecting the two cities.
This security zone should be about 20-30km deep – depending on the populations of the local villages. Sunni Arab-dominated villages will be integrated in the Turkish-ruled region, while Kurdish villages will fall under the American-Kurdish security zone, and come under the protection of the Kurdish YPG militia, supported by US helicopters and aircraft based in southern Turkey.
This unpublished deal with Ankara accounts for Washington’s decision to leave the aircraft carrier USS Truman and its strike group in the Mediterranean for now to stand guard over the nascent American-Kurdish security zone.
Underpinning the deal, our sources report, is Washington’s commitment not to support Kurdish aspirations for an independent state in northern Syria, its pledge of action to sever ties between the YPG and the Turkish-Kurdish separatist group, the PKK, and a promise to coordinate US weapons supplies to the Kurds with Ankara.