U.S. President Donald Trump is eager to declare victory against Daesh, yet his military commanders express concerns that the terrorist defeat might be short-lived. Without necessary pressure, the American military leadership fears Daesh will get back on its feet within six months. Yet Trump is in a rush to withdraw from Syria by April and find another government to deal with the problem of foreign fighters. The People’s Protection Units (YPG), the terrorist PKK’s Syrian affiliate that threatened to release Daesh militants from its custody in retaliation to a U.S. withdrawal, now threatens Trump’s European allies. The group demands Britain, France and Germany to take some 800 Western fighters and put them on trial in Europe.
The death of Daesh, much like its birth, is surrounded by controversy and unanswered questions. The fact that the group faces imminent defeat does not mean it will not participate in future proxy wars. After all, Western governments are more focused on the YPG’s fate and not at all interested in the sociological factors, including the mass radicalization of Sunni Arabs, underlying the Daesh threat. Moreover, NATO allies are at odds with each other over the post-Daesh order.
The foreign fighter problem is not the only area where Washington expects the Europeans to shoulder the burden of the post-Daesh strategy. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Sen. Lindsey Graham urged European leaders to throw their weight behind the proposed safe zone in northern Syria to protect the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and contain the Iranian influence over the country.
European governments must take into consideration the following: The YPG file is nothing like the foreign fighter issue. The idea that Europeans will form an international coalition to protect the YPG from Turkey is unrealistic. No European power could possibly carry out a campaign that the U.S. could not. If Europe goes down that path, it will accomplish nothing and alienate Turkey. In other words, Washington is trying to hand over an unbearable burden to the Europeans.
Certain Europeans, who have a romantic view of the PKK terrorists, might not be too worried about losing Turkey. Yet the country remains key to Europe’s plans for the future of Syria and to the European response to terrorism, illegal immigration and other issues. In other words, Turkey remains Europe’s gatekeeper.