Turkey at the crossroads: how will the military campaign in Syria

Turkish soldiers

Photo: Umit Bektas / Reuters

The Turkish military and opposition Syrian forces close to taking full control of the last stronghold of ISIS in Northern Syria — the cities of al-Bab. The President of Turkey announced plans to continue operations, however in this case he runs the risk of the Syrian army or Kurdish strong

The opposition “Free Syrian army” (FSA) with the support of Turkish aviation and ground forces have occupied the city center of al-Bab, the last significant strongholds of ISIL terrorists (banned in Russia organization) in the province of Aleppo. Last week the FSA and the Turkish military has surrounded the city from the North and West, then to the beginning of this week on the West side went into the city centre.

The operation to liberate the city moves to the end, said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on February 13. However, the human rights organization “Syrian Observatory of human rights”, based in the UK, says that the fighting continues, mainly on the outskirts of the city.

The Turkish operation “Shield of the Euphrates” started in August last year. The main declared objective was to ensure the safety of the Turkish border and secure the border areas in Northern Syria from ISIL militants and the Kurdish military units, said the Minister of foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad consent to the holding of a Turkish operation is not allowed.

By their actions, Turkey is holding back the advancement of the Kurdish YPG militia and prevents the connection of the two Kurdish enclaves in the North — West and North-East of Syria. YPG, according to the statements of Ankara, is the armed wing banned in the country of the Kurdistan workers party (PKK). Since the beginning of operations by the capture of the city killed more than 60 of the Turkish military.

The situation at El-Bab is complicated by the presence of the Syrian military, who, with the help of Russian troops also are developing an offensive on the positions of ISIS, but from the South. To prevent armed clashes Pro-Turkish forces with government troops and their allies, Turkey agreed “line of demarcation”, writes the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. It runs along road that runs South El Baba and the North Tarifa. In accordance with the agreement of the Syrian armed opposition is not moving South of this line, and the Syrian army with the allies moving North from the road.

In order to prevent clashes of Russian troops from Turkish, 12 January the Ministry of defence of the two countries signed a Memorandum on the prevention of incidents and ensuring the safety of aviation. From 18 January, the Russian VKS and the Turkish air force jointly attacked ISIS positions near the city. However, despite the coordination of actions between Russia and Turkey, February 9 from airstrike Russian HQs in the vicinity of El-Baba three soldiers of the Turkish army were killed, more than ten got wounds. The Russian side claimed that the target coordinates were given to the Turkish military.

The next goal of Turkey

On 13 February, the Turkish President stated that after taking El-Baba operation “shield of the Euphrates” will continue. Her ultimate goal he called the liberation of Raqqa from ISIS and Manbij in North-Eastern province of Aleppo against YPG forces, gave his word Turkish news Agency Hurriyet. According to the Turkish leader, after the defeat of the ISIL Turkey is not going to maintain its presence in the North of Syria. “After ridding the region of ISIS, the Kurdish “people’s protection Units” and the Kurdish democratic Union Party, and after the expulsion of ISIS from Raqqa for us is too great a luxury to stay there, but while early to speak about it,” said the President of Armenia (quoted by “Interfax”).

Erdogan also announced the intention to create a “security zone” in the liberated territories. Turkey has long advocated the creation of an unmanned safe areas, which it regarded as a way to protect their border from ISIS, and Kurdish groups. The establishment of such a zone, according to Turkish authorities, will contribute to the solution of the problem of refugees, which led to tensions in relations with Europe. The previous President Barack Obama has opposed the creation of such zones, so as to ensure the security zones is not possible without a wide military presence, and attract a numerous contingent of ground forces and air defense systems to repel attacks of terrorists. However, the new President of the United States Donald trump is a supporter of the creation of “security zones”.

8 Feb Erdogan and trump in a telephone conversation have agreed on a joint struggle against ISIS in al Bab and raqqa.

If Turkey will continue military offensive in the direction of Raqqa, on her way to face the Syrian government army, which is South of El-Baba, says the orientalist Leonid Isaev. If Turkey decides to develop the offensive in Manbij, it will collide with Kurdish groups controlling the city. “War of Erdogan with Assad army put in the difficult situation of Moscow, and the war with the Kurds — Americans,” says Isaev. Because the further escalation disadvantageous to many of the participants in the conflict, one cannot rule out the option of termination of the operation “shield of the Euphrates”, said Isayev. If Erdogan does decide to continue the offensive, to choose the Manbij, I’m sure Isaev, as the struggle with the Kurds is for Ankara a higher priority.

The situation around Raqqa

February 4, “the Democratic forces of Syria” (SDF), consisting mainly of fighters of the Kurdish “people’s protection Units” (YPG) and supported by the United States, announced the beginning of the third phase of its operations for the liberation of Raqqa from ISIS — “Wrath of the Euphrates”. The goal is to isolate the city first blocked the road leading from Raqqa to Deir ez-Zor to prevent the transfer of terrorists reinforcements from one front to another. On Sunday, the leadership of the SDF has announced the release of 98 villages in Eastern countryside of Raqqa, which the Kurds is 10 km, according to Aranews.

 

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