December 01
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Joe Biden administration officials are tightening their stance on NATO ally Turkey as they try to dissuade Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from launching a bloody and destabilizing ground offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in neighboring Syria, writes Associated Press foreign policy and national security columnist Ellen Knickmeyer.

Since Nov. 20, after six people were killed in an Istanbul bombing the week before, for which Turkey unsubstantiatedly blamed the U.S. and its Kurdish allies in Syria, Turkey has launched cross-border airstrikes, missiles and shells into U.S.-Kurdish controlled areas of Syria, resulting in Kurdish funeral cortes burying scores of the dead.

Some have criticized the initial muted U.S. response to the almost daily Turkish bombing - a broad call for "de-escalation" - as a green light for new U.S. action. When Erdogan did not back down from his threat of escalation, the U.S. began to speak more forcefully.
eign policy and national security columnist Ellen Knickmeyer.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called his Turkish counterpart Wednesday to express "strong opposition" to Turkey launching a new military operation in northern Syria.

How successful the U.S. is in dealing with Erdogan's threat to send troops against America's Kurdish partners in the coming weeks will affect global security concerns far from this isolated corner of Syria.

This is especially true for the conflict in Ukraine. The Biden administration seeks Erdogan's cooperation with other NATO partners in countering Russia, especially when it comes to persuading Turkey to drop its objections to Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

But giving Turkey a free hand in attacking the Syrian Kurds in hopes of getting Erdogan to cooperate with NATO would have big security implications, the political observer notes.

U.S. troops on Friday ended joint military patrols with Kurdish forces in northern Syria to fight Islamic State extremists as the Kurds focused on defending against Turkish air and artillery attacks and a possible ground invasion.

Syrian Kurdish forces have been working with several hundred U.S. troops there since 2015, reclaiming territory from the Islamic State and then detaining thousands of Islamic State fighters and their families and fighting the remnants of IS fighters. On Saturday, the U.S. and Kurds resumed limited patrols in one of the detention camps, the article notes.

Turkey says Syrian Kurds are allied with the Kurdish PKK insurgency in southeastern Turkey, which has lasted nearly four decades and resulted in tens of thousands of deaths on both sides. U.S. allies among the Syrian Kurds deny any attacks on Turkey.

U.S. Central Command and many in Congress view the Syrian Kurds as brave comrades-in-arms. In July, Central Command angered Turkey by tweeting condolences to a Syrian Kurdish deputy commander and two other female fighters killed in a drone strike blamed on Turkey.

Turkey, which has close ties to both Russia and the United States, made a key contribution to its NATO allies' efforts against Russia during the conflict in Ukraine. This includes supplying armed drones to Ukraine and helping to mediate between Russia and the U.S. and other countries.

However, Turkey is also trying to influence the alliance by preventing Finland and Sweden from joining NATO. Turkey is demanding that Sweden extradite Kurdish exiles it believes are linked to Kurdish PKK rebels.

Turkey's state news agency reported that Sweden had extradited a PKK member and he was arrested Saturday upon his arrival in Istanbul.

Turkey is one of only two of 30 NATO members yet to sign up Scandinavian countries for NATO membership. Hungary is expected to do so.

At last week's meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Bucharest, Romania, NATO diplomats refrained from a public confrontation with Turkey, avoiding insults that could further stall Finland and Sweden's accession process.

Turkey's foreign minister made it clear to his European counterparts that Turkey has yet to be appeased when it comes to Finland or Sweden hosting Kurdish exiles.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to hold talks Thursday with the foreign ministers of Finland and Sweden over Turkey's objections to their joining NATO.

Experts say the Biden administration has plenty of leverage to use privately to persuade Erdogan to mitigate a threatening escalation of an attack on the Syrian Kurds. This includes selling American F-16 fighter jets, which Turkey needs but which Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez and other members of Congress oppose.

There is also a third big security risk to how the U.S. handles the threat of a Turkish invasion, along with the possible impact on the conflict in Ukraine and on efforts to contain the Islamic State.

This is a risk for the Kurds, a stateless people and a U.S. ally often neglected by the U.S. and the West in past conflicts over the past century, Knickmeyer writes. 

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