Seeking Northern Syria ‘Safe Zone,’ Turkey Pounds ISIS, Kurds

PM Denies Plans to Send Turkish Ground Troops Into Syria

Facing an influx of over a million and a half Syrian refugee from the ongoing civil war, Turkey has had long-standing ambitions to carve out a “safe zone” in northern Syria that could both house the refugees and create something of a buffer between Turkey and the warzone.

At times, Turkey has talked up attacking Kurdish territory in northeastern Syria, something the US has opposed because the Kurds are their allies against ISIS. Now, with Turkey fighting both ISIS and Kurdish forces loyal to the PKK, the “safe zone” plan is being talked up, and Turkey seems set to attack everyone in the area until it happens.

Now directly fighting with ISIS, Turkey is pushing for direct NATO intervention, and seems poised to escalate the fighting with the Kurdish forces in both Iraq and Syria at the same time, with their own direct involvement in fighting ISIS likely to blunt US opposition to their attacks on the Kurds.

PM Ahmet Davutoglu, however, insists Turkey still doesn’t plan to send ground troops into Syria, and the talk of a “safe zone” so far centers on airstrikes. Since the US and its allies haven’t really put a dent in ISIS territory with airstrikes over the past year, it’s hard to imagine how Turkey figures it can impose a “safe zone” in the north through such strikes themselves.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of