Ankara has proposed a US-Turkish joint force to expel Islamic State (ISIS) forces from their de facto capital in Raqqa, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on Saturday.
Turkey’s military chief, Hulusi Akar, proposed two paths for such operation to the US Chief of Staff Jospeh Dunford during a recent meeting at the Incirlik airbase.
One option would be a Turkish-US military incursion, including “moderate rebels” backed by Turkey, from the city of Tal Abyad pushing south towards Raqqa. The second way would imply advancing, through a longer route, from the city of Al-Bab in east Aleppo towards Raqqa.
Both schemes are unlikely to be adopted, since the risk of clashing with other belligerents in the Syrian war is very high.
An incursion from Tel Abyad would require the consent of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), heavily backed by the US at this time, in order to create a “Kurdish free” route from the Syria-Turkish border towards Raqqa.
Kurdish forces resent Ankara as they have been attacked by Turkey, and the later considers the Syrian-Kurdish YPG as a terrorist organization linked to the PKK.
On the other hand, an incursion from Al-Bab seems every day more unlikely since the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is rapdily advancing southeast of the city, towards the ISIS stronghold of Deir Hafer, eyeing at both the Khafsa Water Plant and the Maskanah Plains.
An attempt by Turkey to advance through this front would risk a direct clash with the Syrian Armed Forces and even Russia, derailing the recent rapprochment between Moscow and Ankara, and even sparking a major confrontation.