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Threats Perceived and Real: New Data and the Need for a New Approach to the Turkish-SDF Border Conflict


Dr. Amy Austin Holmes evaluates the Turkish interventions in Northern Syria through the lens of the historical conflict between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). She argues that the Syrian conflict and creation of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has fundamentally transformed the Turkish-PKK conflict from one that was previously limited to the Turkish military and Kurdish militants in southeastern Turkey and the Qandil Mountains of Iraq – to one that now impacts civilians of every ethnic and religious group across a large region of northern Syria. The need for a resolution is more urgent than ever before. The publication presents a new dataset based on ACLED data, an analysis of official Turkish court documents of trials of SDF members, and the author's observations and interviews conducted in Northeast Syria. In her conclusion, Dr. Holmes puts forth that the Biden Administration should renegotiate the 2019 ceasefire agreement with Turkey and ensure the return of displaced civilians, as a first step in resolving both the Turkish-SDF and larger Syrian conflict.  

About the Author

Amy Austin Holmes image

Amy Austin Holmes

Public Policy Fellow;
Associate Professor of Sociology, American University in Cairo
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Middle East Program

The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform US foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.  Read more