On January 13th, the US announced the formation of a 30,000-strong PKK affiliate terrorist YPG-led "Border Security Force" in the name of staving off a Daesh "resurgence."
Turkey responded to the initiative in fierce opposition.
On January 15th Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described the U.S. announcement as an attempt to create an "army of terror" and promises to quote, "strangle it before it is born."
Erdoğan also said that Turkey would begin imminent operation in the north-western terror enclave of Afrin.
Witnessing Turkish determination to deal with terror groups, the U.S. did an about-face.
On January 17th US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told media, quote, "that entire situation has been mis-portrayed, mis-described, some people misspoke. We are not creating a Border Security Force at all."
Tillerson and other U.S. officials are now struggling to avoid being shut out of Syria by its own ally, Turkey, following a crisis it helped provoke just days ago.
On January 20th, Pentagon Spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway said that the U.S. did not consider the 8,000-10,000 YPG terrorists in Afrin were not part of its 'defeat Daesh' operations adding that, quote, "we are not involved with them at all."
For all the backpedaling and reframing the US officials are now doing, the chronology of the about-face from Afrin to Ankara is startlingly straightforward and Turkish determination to eliminate terror played a pivotal role in this shift.
As it promised, Turkey began its air and ground campaign against the terror group.
Turkey is attacking YPG positions in Afrin from the air followed by a ground campaign in alliance with the Ffree Syrian Army in what it dubbed Operation Olive Branch. Turkey said that it would create a 30-km deep security zone inside the Syrian border, and announced plans to push the offensive further east.
On January 21st US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said, quote, "Turkey is a NATO ally. It's the only NATO country with an active insurgency inside its borders. And Turkey has legitimate security concerns. We'll sort this out."
On January 22nd Tillerson told Turkey, quote, "let US see if we can work with you to create the kind of security zone you might need."
But the entire episode is emblematic of the incoherent and doomed-to-fail strategy the US has pursued in Syria for the past seven years. The U.S. didn't tell Ankara in
Advance because it must have realized what the reaction would be. It perhaps underestimated President Erdoğan's resolve before trotting out a series of implausible denials.
The bigger problem is that washington supports one terror group against another instead of engaging with legitimate regional powers such as Turkey.
Washington is probably best-off helping quietly, and not lighting matches and then inching away in embarrassment while others wage real wars.