Syrian Kurds Plan to Attack Turkish-Held Border Areas

Commander Vows to 'Liberate' Jarabulus and Azaz

While most of the focus on the risk of a war breaking out between the Turkish military and the Kurdish YPG in northern Syria has been on the possibility of Turkey invading the Afrin District, At least one top YPG commander is looking to get the fighting started himself by invading Turkish-held areas along the border.

Commander Sipan Hemo of the YPG insisted it is his intention to “liberate” the entire border area from Jarabulus to Azaz, a region that spans much of the Aleppo Province, and would effectively give the YPG military control over the bulk of the Syrian side of the Turkey border.

Hemo presented Turkey as an “occupying force” within Syria, though Turkey presents itself as merely having seized the territory on behalf of a collection of rebel factions that are aligned with them. In reality, Turkey and the YPG have been on the brink of fighting for quite some time now, and both sides seem to be looking for an excuse at this point.

Turkey’s invasion of Syria last year started at Jarabulus, along the western bank of the Euphrates River. They expanded westward, all the way to Azaz, and took some territory to the south. The city of Aleppo, held by the government, and Afrin, held by the Kurds, effectively are the border of this region, and the YPG would clearly like to capture a land route connecting Afrin to the rest of its territory.

Doing that, however, is likely to be impossible without starting a massive war with Turkey, as while Turkey seems to have been somewhat kept in check from major attacks on YPG territory by embedded US forces, it is unlikely that would be the case if the Kurds outright invaded Turkish-held territory, and the US would struggle to justify continuing to back the YPG if that did happen.

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.