The Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian wing of the internationally-recognised terrorist group the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) in Turkey, is preparing its forces ahead of what it fears is a Turkish military operation in the region.
Local sources in the area east of the Euphrates River reported on the deployment and mobilisation of the militia troops in the city of Ras Al-Ain in Hasakah province and the surrounding rural areas on Wednesday. The mobilisation has also reportedly been followed by raids into the nearby towns and villages, causing the widespread displacement of civilians from areas such as Tal Barak.
This is part of the state of confusion the YPG is reportedly undergoing following the breakdown of talks between the United States (US) and Turkey on a proposed new safe zone in Syria, which Ankara demanded must exclude the YPG and other Kurdish militias. Turkey subsequently threatened to conduct a military operation into the Kurdish-held territories if the safe zone was not agreed upon.
The talks between Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and US Envoy to Syria James Jeffreys, which were held as talks between US military officials and the YPG were also underway, ended on Wednesday with no agreement having been concluded.
The fear of the looming Turkish military operation has severely lowered the morale of the group and has reportedly caused incidents of militia members and officials defecting and fleeing the area. The YPG-led Kurdish security and intelligence agency Asayish allegedly conducted arrests of men of military-age from the city of Raqqa for the purpose of forced recruitment, and raided the village of Al-Jamous near Tal Abyad in search of five militia members who defected from the group.
YPG customs official Rasho has also fled the territory east of the Euphrates, taking millions of dollars of the militia's funds with him.