US, Turkey Eye 60-Mile ‘Safe Zone’ in Northern Syria

Aims to Give Territory to 'Moderate Insurgents'

More details about Turkey’s plans for a “safe zone” in northern Syria are emerging, and as a few questions are answered on the putative deal between Turkey and the US on the matter, many more questions are also emerging on the notion.

The US and Turkey have agreed the safe zone will be 60 miles long, but they haven’t decided how wide it will be. They have also determined it will be under the control of “moderate insurgents,” but it isn’t clear if such groups exist already or how the US and Turkey figure on installing them, since both insist the plan doesn’t involve ground troops.

Turkey has insisted they don’t want any ISIS territory on their border, but they also don’t want any Kurdish territory on their border. They seem more or less fine with al-Qaeda’s border holding to the west, but the 60 miles seems to cover only a fairly short amount of the non-al-Qaeda border.

US officials are also saying they don’t intend to create the zone as a place to house the 1.8 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Turkey, but they also concede it might well end up becoming that, and the refugees might flock there.

Turkey has clearly wanted rid of the refugees for awhile, and that’s a big part of the plan for them, but how they figure on accomplishing this, beyond a lot of airstrikes, remains completely unspoken.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.