Could an ISIS-Free Zone Be Expanded Upon?
General terms have recently been agreed upon between Turkish and American officials to create an “Islamic State-free zone”. Many details still need to be discussed but the proposed area would include a nearly 60 mile strip along the northern border of Syria and Turkey which would allow displaced Syrians to eventually return to the area. The idea of a safe-zone is a major breakthrough for Syrians and the fight against the brutal Islamic State in the region. However, many questions and complications still need to be addressed before a positive, long-term impact can be seen.
The plan has a distinct focus on defeating ISIS in the region. Many of the groups the United States and its allies coordinate airstrikes with are fighting both the Islamic State and the Assad regime. However, soon after the announcement of the agreement, U.S. officials stated that this plan is not directed at Assad but only ISIS. Significant complications could arise as Syrian aircraft regularly conduct deadly attacks in the proposed region. Serious discussions need to be made regarding a course of action should the Assad regime attack U.S. partners on the ground in the region. Turkey has allowed the U.S. to use two of its airbases as part of the plan, which will likely enhance U.S. capabilities to strike at ISIS targets in Northern and Eastern Syria. Furthermore, greater Turkish involvement will either increase the frequency of coalition strikes, or at least absolve the U.S. of some of the burden.
Many issues will need to be resolved throughout the implementation of this safe-zone. Intricate coordination between opposition groups on the ground and U.S. airstrikes will be challenging. The depth of the area will need to be established- how deep into Syria will displaced civilians be protected? Will other regions be neglected as a result? Increased cooperation between opposition groups, the U.S. military and its allies could develop into sound partnerships that could lead to a successful anti ISIS strategy in Syria. Significant questions remain regarding the proposed plan but this is definitely a positive development in restoring peace and establishing normalcy in a highly volatile region of Syria.