Relief groups are worried about any new military action in Syria, which could pose a new threat to 2 million civilians in northeast Syria, said Misty Buswell, the International Rescue Committee‘s policy, advocacy and communications director for the Middle East. “A military offensive could immediately displace at least 300,000 people and disrupt lifesaving humanitarian services … ” Buswell said.
The Pentagon issued a statement around midday on Monday, clarifying that it has not endorsed a Turkish military offensive over the border. “The Department of Defense made clear to Turkey — as did the President — that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria…” said Jonathan Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs.
News that Turkey now plans to move ahead with an offensive along its border with Syria is likewise raising concerns in the U.K. and France.
As the potential for a clash between Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces rises, there are also questions about the makeup of the group. According to Amy Austin Holmes, a fellow with the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, the SDF is far more diverse than its origins as Kurdish organization.
“[Turkish President] Erdogan plans to invade Syria again to destroy the SDF, who he assumes are all Kurds and PKK terrorists,” said Holmes, who conducted a survey of the group in northern Syria. She added, “In reality, my survey data shows the majority of SDF are Arabs. Members of the Christian and Turkmen minority in Syria have also joined the SDF.”