Manbij, Again


Back in March, 2017, I posted about US “still no boots on the ground” Stryker AFVs and Humvees being deployed at Manbij in Syria, [stderr] in order to keep the swirling mess of people shooting at each other from turning into Turkish military shooting at Kurdish Peshmergas who had occupied Manbij.

That’s “fewer than a dozen” Americans

Then, the Kurds held a referendum for independence and the Iraqi government wasn’t having any of it, and overran Kurdish positions and rolled them out of Mosul and back to basically where they started. And, “no independence for you!” [stderr]

Now that it’s pretty clear that the US is hanging the Kurds out to dry, Turkey has launched an incursion into Syria – everyone is invading Syria except maybe the French – and is pushing the Kurds back.

It looks like Turkey has had its eye on Manbij all along. What’s the plan, here? Is Turkey going to annex part of Syria, or are they just going to kill a bunch of Kurds, flatten Manbij, and leave?

Turkish 1960s armor

That thing does not belong in a battle-zone; it’s what RPGs were originally designed to penetrate. [It’s an M-60 US-made Patton tank; we sold them cheap when the Abrams M-1 came into production in 197?] It doesn’t sound like the Kurds have much ability to put up a resistance, though. [guardian]

Turkey has said it will extend its incursion in Syria to the town of Manbij, taking its forces to the edge of the US-backed Kurdish presence in the country’s north-east and raising the spectre of a military standoff with Washington.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, announced the move late on Wednesday as a Turkish military assault on the city of Afrin, in north-west Syria, continued for a fifth day.

The attack has displaced 5,000 people and killed scores of civilians as well as fighters among the Arab forces that Ankara is using as a proxy against the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin.

I don’t know if they should even report the Kurds as “US-backed” since the US appears to have decided to hang them out to dry.

Up to 2,000 US forces are stationed in the area, along with more than 10,000 SDF members. The force is mainly Kurdish-led but has Arab fighters among its ranks

2,000? Remember when they were saying it was only a few dozen special forces?

Erdoğan had earlier flagged that the military operation may at least partly aim to engineer demographic shifts in Afrin, saying: “55% of Afrin is Arab, 35% are the Kurds who were later relocated, and about 7% are Turkmen. We aim to give Afrin back to its rightful owners.”

Determining the makeup of populations along the Turkish border in the wake of the Syrian war remains a key objective of many sides in the conflict.

Just when you thought they had run out of euphemisms for “ethnic cleansing.” They just want to engineer some demographic shifts and give Afrin back to its “rightful owners.” That cycle never stops. What’s crazy about most of the wars since WWII (which, at least, resulted in the dismantling of colonialism) is that the imaginary lines on the map usually don’t change much when the killing is done. There is a great deal of hard work and suffering going into some fairly dubious accomplishments.

I used to believe that the big anti-war movement about Vietnam was because Americans had realized that invading other countries and bombing them was bad. But now I realize that it was mostly that white middle-class (there was still a middle class in those days!) college kids didn’t want to get drafted. And their parents didn’t want to see little Johnny’s college career ended and Johnny come home in a box. Congress, naturally, is more concerned about Russians buying ads on Twitter, and deporting people from the US, so they’re not going to lift a finger to ask whether the president is authorized to just go around invading places and overthrowing governments. Of course, they’re divided: half don’t want to complain about what president bone spurs is doing, and the other half don’t want to complain about what president Obama did.

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I have decided not to capitalize political office names any more. If I’m not going to capitalize “christianity” because I barely think it’s worthy of being a noun, I don’t think I should capitalize “president” either.

Can we punch people who talk about “nation-building”?

Comments

  1. Raucous Indignation says

    We may punch whoever we’d like to. Every day is punch a nazi day as far as I’m concerned.

  2. komarov says

    Turkish 1960s armor

    Pardon my confusion but did you mean Kurdish armor, maybe? The German government is mildly upset and more than mildly embarrassed that the Turkish are using German-made tanks for their invasion. This, of course, is Bad Publicity. Also maybe there are humanitarian concerns but that’s probably secondary. In response the Germans apparently halted plans to sell upgrades for those tanks although, when I read about it, the article seemed to emphasise that it was the decision of the current government. Maybe it’s expected that whenever they finally do form the next government that decision will be re-evaluated and overturned. I suspect no matter how much relations between Germany and Turkey may sour, weapon exports will normalise again soon enough. Never let bad politics interfere with good business.

  3. jrkrideau says

    Afrin and Manbij
    This seems to be nothing more than a result of the usual idiotic/criminally stupid ideas out of Washington. Where do they get those idiots. Ivy League clones?

    The USA wants to arm and equip a Kurdish force of thirty thousand along the Turkish–Syrian border (where the USA has no legitimate reason to be), and expects Turkey who, one way or another, has been battling Kurdish separatists for, maybe 30 years, to like the idea!

    The Kurds in the border force promise not to interfere in Turkey and all is fine. Is even an American that naive?

    Whether or not Kurds in Syria and Iraq are supporters of the PKK in Turkey, I can see their worry.

    Quite honestly, a Turkish attack against US allies makes sense and since the US record of supporting their allies is poor, to say the least, Turkey is not likely too worried about a US response. I think most people in the region still remember the marsh Arabs.

    The weird thing is that the Kurds continue to be US allies. Their political elite seems almost as delusional as the Americans.

    To answer one of the questions, I doubt that Turkey is planing an a land grab. It is just not feasible and they probably would not want in anyway. The real issue is armed Kurds on or near the border.

    Strangely enough, I am reminded of armed Fenians on the US–Canada border. For some bizarre reason, we were not happy that our neighbour seemed happy to tolerate/support terrorists.

  4. jrkrideau says

    @ 2 komarov
    No, wiki says that the Turks have M-60 tanks. And M-48’s
    The Leopards are their more modern component as far as I can see.

  5. springa73 says

    @3 jrkrideau

    I think the Kurdish leaders are pro-US because they have no other choices – every nation in the region is determined to prevent Kurdish independence. Having said that, I agree that it is both stupid and immoral for the US to support the hopes of groups like the Kurds when it should be obvious that the US will be unable to sustain that support.

    Re: Fenian raids into Canada from the US – one theory I’ve read is that the US government turned a blind eye to Fenian activity because they were upset at Britain for allowing the Confederate States to buy weapons and supplies and build ships in Britain during the US Civil War.

  6. jrkrideau says

    # 5 springa73
    Re: Fenian raids
    I think the prevailing theory in Canada is that the USA was, automatically, willing to attack the British Empire and had a hope they could seize Canada in the process. See Mexico.

  7. komarov says

    Re: jrkrideau (#3):

    Fair enough then, thanks. Strictly speaking the Leopards are obsolete surplus too. Apparently the Bundeswehr needed to make room for the next generation and, just like the US, sold the old ones to Turkey. It’s almost unfortunate that there is so little demand for military waste disposal; someone will always buy the old stuff and figure out a way to put it to “good use”. Having hundreds of tanks rust away in some out-of-the-way landfill would still be preferable to having them roll all over people.

  8. says

    komarov@#7:
    The Turkish leopards were a source of some consternation – islamist insurgents with Kornet ATGM made lunchmeat out of them. Here [stderr] I wrote a bit about it – there used to be footage on youtube of a Turkish leopard escorted by M-60s getting blown to pieces. The Turks parked it right on a crest-line and were not prepared to maneuver. There’s probably not much qualitatively wrong with the leopards, but the surviving Turkish tank crews needed to learn how to maneuver tanks in a modern battlefield.

    The German government is mildly upset and more than mildly embarrassed that the Turkish are using German-made tanks for their invasion.

    They Germans may also be upset at the marketing optics of seeing the expensive gear they sold get spanked with obsolete missiles that cost a fraction of what the tanks cost.

  9. says

    jrkrideau@#3:
    This seems to be nothing more than a result of the usual idiotic/criminally stupid ideas out of Washington. Where do they get those idiots. Ivy League clones?

    I have no idea. It’s worth looking at, because it shows the quality of thought that goes into the US’ ideas of “regime change.” These idiots couldn’t change their socks, let alone a regime.

    The weird thing is that the Kurds continue to be US allies.

    Agreed. I am baffled by some of that. Apparently the US still has almost a dozen H-bombs stationed at Incirlik. Because, you know, diplomacy between the US and Turkey has been great, lately, and Turkey shows no sign of flipping over into a dictatorship. Of course neither does the US.

    The whole thing makes my head hurt, which is why my coverage of events there has consisted mostly of head-scratching incomprehension and fear of militarism. If there’s some kind of grand strategy behind any of what’s going on, it’s very deep and very subtle – because what I see is a lot of pointless thrashing around and breaking things.

  10. says

    springa73@#5:
    I think the Kurdish leaders are pro-US because they have no other choices – every nation in the region is determined to prevent Kurdish independence. Having said that, I agree that it is both stupid and immoral for the US to support the hopes of groups like the Kurds when it should be obvious that the US will be unable to sustain that support.

    Yes. i am reminded of how the US supported break-away attempts in southern Iraq after Gulf War I, and – then left them hang out to dry. That, in turn reminds me of how the US looped Hmong tribes into fighting against the government of N. Vietnam, then left them hang out to dry. The US is really good at that sort of thing.

  11. says

    komarov@#7:
    Having hundreds of tanks rust away in some out-of-the-way landfill would still be preferable to having them roll all over people.

    Most Americans didn’t even recognize the M-119 armored personnel carriers the Egyptian government was using at Tahrir Square. Of course they didn’t recognize the US-made CS gas and riot guns, either. The M-119s were mostly post-Vietnam surplus – the DoD got rid of them as “obsolete” so they could buy tons and tons of Humvees in the 1980s, then discover in Afghanistan and Iraq that unarmored Humvees are death-traps, so they could spend millions “up-armorning” them to be still nowhere near as good as M-119s. But that’s OK they were able to spend billions on MRAPs.

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