Two months on, is the US selling out the Kurds for Turkey's airbase?

Published September 27th, 2015 - 08:37 GMT
CENTCOM numbers show a sharp decrease in US airstrike backing for Kurdish groups in Syria. (AFP/File)
CENTCOM numbers show a sharp decrease in US airstrike backing for Kurdish groups in Syria. (AFP/File)

Plenty of setbacks have overshadowed the US coalition against Daesh (ISIS) in Syria, from failing to form an effective ground fighting force, to seeing significantly lower results than expected in beating back the militants over the last year. But less publicized are how certain steps in the campaign are affecting the US's most long-standing allies, the Kurds.

US-strikes that used to aid the Kurds' battle on the ground in northern Syria have scaled back by 50 percent in the last month, according to US Central Command numbers. In August, over 300 airstrikes hit Kurdish areas in Syria and Iraq, backing forces fighting Daesh on the ground. But that number took a serious nosedive from August 15-Sept. 15, with only some 150 strikes. 

So what's different about this month? At least one thing — Turkey.

At the end of July, Turkish officials gave a green light to the US to use the country's Incirlik Air Base. Turkey's own warplanes soon followed. But it also reignited another front for Turkey, against the Kurdish militia Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). 

In addition to striking Daesh, Turkish warplanes targeted PKK positions in northern Iraq, a war that's been raging ever since. Problem is, the PKK is also the unlikely ally of the US coalition. The Kurdish militants have aided the Peoples Protection Units and the Iraqi pershmerga, both key US allies.  

Back when the US first began using Incirlik base, critics said winning Turkey's support in the coalition meant selling out one of the most effective fighting forces on the ground. US officials denied it back then, but the numbers tell another story.

See a chart of airstrike numbers below, via Imgur. 

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