On March 15, The Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured the villages of Qutan, Berkshli, Kafr Shil, Birka, Ali Jaro, Maska Faqani, Tahtani and Humuraju from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Syrian area of Afrin. The advance was actively supported by the TAF’s air power and artillery.
It’s interesting to note that the TAF and the FSA still keep a road from Afrin to the government-held part of Aleppo province open. Turkish forces are working to isolate the YPG-held city of Afrin from northern direction but do not cut off the road to the city of Aleppo despite multiple opportunities.
Ankara seeks to avoid additional civilian casualties in an attempt to achieve a citory in the PR standoff against the YPG backed up by the Western mainstream media.
Meanwhile, the TAF’s general staff said that 3,524 “terrorists” had been neutralized since the start of Operation Olive Branch on January 20.
On the same day, a spokesperson for the Turkish president, Ibrahim Kalin, said in an interview with the TRT Haber broadcaster that Turkey and the US would form a “safe zone” around the city of Manbij in the province of Aleppo if the US “keeps promises.”
Manbij is formally controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The YPG is a core of the SDF.
Kalin added that Turkey expects to clear Afrin of Kurdish militias “very soon.” However, he emphasized that Ankara has no intention to hand over the town to the Syrian government after it’s captured by its forces.
According to Kalin, 70 percent of the Afrin area has been captured since the start of the Turkish military oepration.
“Geographically, over 70 percent of it [Afrin] has been secured right now,” he said. “They wanted to make Afrin a new Qandil. This [attempt] has been eliminated through Operation Olive Branch.”
Qandil Mountain has been a stronghold of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. Ankara says that the YPG is a Syrian branch of the PKK.