The U.S. and Turkey have agreed to establish the so-called "Islamic State-free zone" along the Turkey-Syria border. Its creation, according to American authorities, would ensure greater security and stability in the region.
It's still unknown how the safe haven will be policed, but is being lauded as a diplomatic victory for Turkey, which has long argued for a buffer in northern Syria. Its implementation also comes at a time when it seems “likely that the U.S. campaign against ISIS will intensify. That is what this zone is designed for," Ivan Eland, Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute, told Metro.
What’s behind the creation of this zone?
The zone protects Turkey from ISIS cross-border attacks. These attacks are why Turkey is now in the war against ISIS with the United States and other countries.
Is there a need for it?
ISIS fighters can now launch attacks across the porous Turkish-Iraq and Turkish-Syria borders. They have some safety on the other side of the borders from Turkey. Turkey and the United States are trying to reduce this sanctuary. If a safe zone is set up, Syrian refugees can go back to Syria and leave Turkey.
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Turkey is getting more and more involved in the battle against ISIS. Isn’t it dangerous?
A bit. Turkey does need to do more, so the United States can do less, not more. Turkey is more threatened by ISIS than the United States. Turkey even helped ISIS by letting the group's fighters cross the border into Syria, because Turkey wanted President Assad removed from power. Yet Turkey is demanding this ISIS-free zone as a price for the U.S. using its air bases and its own bombing of ISIS. The United States should not have to essentially bribe Turkey to defend itself. Also, Turkey is bombing one of the few ground forces that have been effective against ISIS – the Kurds. A ground force is critically needed to eliminate ISIS, with more bombing by the United States, Turkey, and other countries will not do it and may be counterproductive. So overall, Turkey's contribution may be a negative.
Will the US campaign against ISIS intensify with this zone?
That is likely and what it’s designed for. It’ll keep ISIS away from Turkey and make Turkey safer. This is the price the United States has needlessly paid to get Turkey in the war against ISIS.
Is creating this zone a diplomatic victory for Turkey?
Yes, this was the price for Turkish participation in the war, and Turkey got it.
Who will be affected by this zone?
ISIS will be bombed to a greater extent, but so will the Kurds, one of the few effective ground forces the United States has to fight ISIS. Overall, the result of Turkey's entry into the war will be counterproductive. The exception might be if they sent in ground forces to fight ISIS.
Provided the Turks don't send in ground forces to fight ISIS, bombing will continue to only be marginally effective against ISIS and may even generate more ISIS fighters from a "rally-around-the-flag" effect. If the Kurds are also debilitated as a ground force by Turkish bombing, this would be another negative effect of Turkish entry into the war.