As Turkish troops and their Free n Army rebel allies close in on the the mainly Kurdish city of , the looming question is whether will actually wade into what analysts warn will be a bloody fight with high civilian casualties.

The other is whether the n Kurdish militant group known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG) will remain to defend the city or cut its losses and leave.

These questions arose last week as Turkish troops moved on the town of Jinderes, which lies southwest of  and is critical to disrupting the YPG’s supply lines further east. The Turkish-led force backed by massive air power seized Jindires with little resistance. The ease suggests the YPG decided to tactically retreat and save its manpower for city.

’s hawkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan left no room for doubt about ’s intentions, saying Friday, “Now the center of is surrounded and our entry is imminent.” Erdogan announced ambitious plans for the city, saying would help rebuild its infrastructure, restore electricity and water and modernize its education and its healthcare system “just like it did in , al-Rai, Azaz and .”

The Turkish strongman was referring to the hefty chunk of territory seized during the Euphrates Shield operation that began in in August 2016. has since set about building roads, schools and hospitals and training local security forces there with what critics call “neo-Ottoman” — some even say Islamist — zeal.

The YPG has vowed to defend , redeploying hundreds of fighters from its stronghold in northeastern to join the fight. A commander for the YPG-led , which is the US-led coalition’s top ally in the campaign against the Islamic State, told Al-Monitor via WhatsApp, “Turkish forces are two kilometers from . They are carrying out air and artillery attacks to force the civilian population to flee.” The SDF commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity, ruled out pulling out of city, where the militants had “made all necessary preparations to confront the enemy.” He added the YPG controlled a strategic chain of hills separating Jindires from , known as the Hawar mountains in Kurdish. Unlike the string of hills to the east of that fell to the Turkish-led force in February, this area is “much bigger, thickly forested and harder to penetrate.”

But ’s Operation Olive Branch, launched on Jan. 20, has dented the aura of invincibility that the YPG built with its prowess against the Islamic State. And a growing number of analysts question how long the YPG can fend off . Ankara has the strategic advantage of air power and rear bases from east, north and the west.

While the valor and discipline of the YPG against IS remain uncontested, coalition air power, guidance and weaponry swung the battle in their favor. In , which falls outside the United States’ informal zone of influence, the YPG has to fend for itself. And for as long as , which controls the skies over , lets the carry out strikes, the YPG will remain on the defensive.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Kurdish militia that is fighting for self-rule inside and working with the YPG inside insists they are the same — already had a taste of the Turkish army’s heavy-handedness during protracted battles that erupted in the mainly Kurdish cities and towns in ’s southeast in 2015. Entire neighborhoods were reduced to rubble and over half a million civilians were displaced. According to a UN report, hundreds were killed, tortured and abused as Turkish forces backed by tanks stomped out the PKK’s reckless stab at urban autonomy. YPG sources insist there little reason to doubt Turkish forces will display similarly ruthless tactics in . But if they believe it will trigger an international outcry that will force to halt its operations, they may well be proven wrong.

According to the monitoring group AirWars, at least 2,000 civilians died in the battle to wrest the IS’ “capital” Raqqa. What is certain, wrote Samuel Oakford, who conducted the study, “is that the intense bombardment resulted in significant civilian casualties” and “at least 95% of airstrikes and artillery strikes were American.” Yet the world has not reacted.

Though in the case of , international sympathy lies largely with the , national governments including the United States have yet to demand ’s offensive stop.

Nicholas Heras is a Middle East Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He told Al-Monitor, “The YPG in has fought a valiant battle, but ’s strategy of working from the edges of to toward the center, onto city, has been successful. There has been no point during [the operation] that the YPG has been able to demonstrate that it can stand up against the Turkish military and its n rebel proxies.” Heras argued, “With the battle for the city of looming, the YPG would be better served to withdraw what forces it can from  and reposition them in a place like  or on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. The fact of the matter is no great power — neither nor the United States — is going to intervene to turn the battle for into a victory for the YPG, like it won in Kobani.”

But withdrawing to may not offer a respite: Erdogan renewed vows to expand ’s offensive against the YPG further east to and all the way to the Iraqi border even as US and Turkish officials met in Washington to reach a compromise on the mainly Arab city. The talks are part of a broader US effort to repair ties with . Ankara insists that , which is protected by the US-led coalitions, needs to be purged of all YPG influence, that all YPG fighters and administrators be withdrawn from to the east of the Euphrates River.

The talks ended on Friday with ’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu declaring that the United States and had reached “a common understanding.” He is expected to travel to Washington in the coming days to attend a meeting of the global anti-IS coalition and will likely pick up the negotiations on with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a separate bilateral meeting.

Sources familiar with the substance of the discussions said the outlines of a putative deal foresee ties being established between the Military Council and pro-Turkish rebels or Trained n Opposition, with some TSO coming in and the “core YPG” moving to the east of the river, but that it would take “a very long time.” Moreover, one of the sources noted, “Everything needs to be mutually agreed between the United States and , which means nothing will ever be agreed.”

The SDF commander insisted the United States “believes if takes and a deal is done on , Erdogan will be appeased and all of their problems will disappear. They are wrong.”

One of the hitches is that US special operations forces remain distrustful of the Arab rebels. They include jihadi elements who have displayed hostile behavior toward them in the past and continue to shoot at them from the Euphrates Shield zone. What’s more, the Turks appear to have little control over them. Thus, US Central Command, which oversees coalition operations in and Iraq — and was, rather unusually, not represented at the talks — is likely to push back.