Skip to main content

Will Turkey's Jarablus win lead to showdown with Kurds?

Turkey’s incursion into Jarablus and demands that Kurdish forces retreat have shaken the balance of power in the region.
Turkish army tanks drive towards to the border in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RTX2MYJC
Read in 

The Turkish government has made a new move in the Syrian war, continuing its involvement in the conflict. The small Syrian city of Jarablus, located 100 kilometers (62 miles) to the northeast of Aleppo and 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the west of Kobani, has become the symbol of the fight against the Islamic State (IS). On Aug. 24, groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and trained by the Turkish military entered and took control. For the first time, IS militants handed over a city without putting up a fight.

Before the IS occupation, Jarablus had a population of 100,000. The Syrian regime's forces left the city and FSA groups took control on July 15, 2012. Afterward, al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra took control with the support of the Turkish government. In this process, 10,000 Kurds were forced to leave and their houses were seized. Jabhat al-Nusra handed over the city to IS on Dec. 14, 2014. IS terrorized anyone who did not obey it and massacred many members of the ethnically Arab Cedawra tribe, which is influential in the region. The Turkish government raised not the slightest objection to IS back then. IS blew up the only bridge connecting Kobani and Jarablus over the Euphrates River on March 5, 2015, which made it difficult for Kurdish forces to access the area. The Turkish army’s artillery attacks disrupted the attempts of Kurdish forces to enter, and the Turkish state thus blocked the People's Protection Units (YPG) from liberating Jarablus from IS.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.