When they invaded northern Syria in August of last year, the Turkish military seemingly had a straightforward shot at the entire border, with virtually every shred of territory controlled by Islamist rebel factions or ethnic Kurdish groups. Targeting either is right in Turkey’s wheelhouse, and seemingly they could make it happen.
It lasted long enough for them to secure the territory they wanted in Aleppo Province, but things started growing more complicated after that, as the US build-up in Syria for its own anti-ISIS operations has seen them heavily supporting the Kurds, and getting in Turkey’s way.
Turkey issued a statement last year declaring no Kurds would ever be allowed west of the Euphrates River, but in the city of Manbij, the YPG has territory on the river’s west shore, and with US troops embedded in Manbij, Turkey has no straightforward way to attack the city.
Turkish officials have responded by complaining bitterly about the US supporting the Kurds, but there is no sign that’s going to change US policy. Pentagon officials have been trying to get Turkey and the Kurds to work together against ISIS, but in reality keeping Turkey from attacking them outright is probably challenge enough.