Conflict

SDF Continue to Withdraw Forces From Syrian-Turkish Border

Syria

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are continuing to withdraw from the Syrian-Turkish border in accordance with the Turkish-Russian agreement.

Turkey and Russia came to an agreement in Sochi, Russia, last week related to the withdrawal of the Syrian Democratic Forces from parts of the Syrian-Turkish border as part of a plan to ease tensions between Turkey, the SDF and the Syrian regime in Damascus. Both the SDF and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AA) accepted the agreement, leading to the withdrawal of SDF units, most notably the People’s Protection Units (YPG), from the Tal Rifaat and Manbij regions.

Joint Russian and Turkish patrols are expected to be conducted in those regions following the withdrawal. The Syrian regime’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has also already taken positions along the Syrian-Turkish border near Ras al-Ain. Turkey is set to take control over a 20-km stretch of territory situated between the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.

The ceasefire agreement has thus far held fairly strongly, with only a few skirmishes between reported between the SDF and the Turkish-backed rebel groups, the Syrian National Army (SNA). The implementation of the withdrawal is expected to further diminish any chance of outbreaks of military clashes in the region.

The talks between Russia and Turkey were held in Sochi a week ago as a US-Turkey brokered 120-hour ceasefire agreement involving the SDF was coming to an end. The incoming SAA forces into the region, replacing the SDF units, are expected ease tensions, however, military clashes have been reported by the SAA and the SNA.

Although Turkey has seen the SDF as the main threat along its border, the incoming SAA forces are likely to be seen with hostility by the local SNA forces, which are by essence anti-Syria regime. This has the potential to spark further military conflict in the region between multiple actors that are present there in spite of the ceasefire agreement.