The US has deployed a number of special forces troops and armored vehicles along the border between Kurdish-held northeast Syria and Turkey, with most of the troops sent to the area around Darbasiya, which was the site of heavy Turkish attacks earlier this week.
Officially, US commanders say the troops are there “monitoring the situation,” though Syrian Kurds say that in practice the US deployment is an attempt to establish a “buffer” to try to limit fighting between the two sides,, which has been raging since Turkey’s airstrikes were carried out.
From Turkey’s perspective, there are two trains of thought on their recent push to attack the Kurdish YPG, who they consider “terrorists.” On the one hand, there seems to be some hope that if they can displace the Kurds enough during the buildup to the invasion of the ISIS capital of Raqqa, the US might agree to change it to a joint US-Turkey operation.
On the other hand, there is talk that this amounts to Turkey being more forceful about their objections to the US backing the Kurds, and that this might be the start of a “collision course” which brings Turkey and the US into direct competition over Syria.
The US and Turkey clearly have different agendas for post-war Syria, with the US mostly trying to ensure they can prop up a pro-US government in power, and Turkey’s goal simply being to see whoever ends up in power is harshly cracking down on Kurdish secessionist ambitions.
This isn’t the first time the US has deployed troops in Syria specifically to preempt a Turkish attack, with US troops still in Manbij based on the assumption that Turkey wouldn’t risk causing casualties to the US, a fellow NATO member, in a push against the Kurds.