A series of Turkish airstrikes targeting American-allied Kurdish militias in Iraq and Syria threaten to put Turkey and the United States on a “collision course,” experts have warned.
Syrian activists said the attacks, on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq and a mountainous region in Syria, killed at least 18 members of the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which are at the center of bitter divisions between the two NATO allies.
The U.S. military is working closely with Kurdish fighters in Syria, considering them as the only viable force capable of seizing the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State. But Turkey regards the militias as a direct offshoot of a Kurdish militant group that poses a grave threat to Turkish security. As a result, a crisis is brewing over the U.S. partnership with the militias.
“The collision course is coming. It’s already come in some respects and it’s a question of how badly this deteriorates,” says Michael Hanna, a senior fellow at the New York-based Century Foundation. “There are U.S. personnel on the ground. In the worst case scenario you’re having Turkey, a NATO ally, a close traditional partner of the United States, could kill American personnel on the ground,” he tells TIME.
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