Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that the Turkish intervention in northern Syria has a goal tostop the threats posed by the ISIS terrorists group and Kurdish militants.
“We started a military operation in northern Syria at 4 a.m. this morning, aimed at eliminating the threats posed by Daesh and Syrian Kurds,” Erdogan said.
He added that Ankara intends to put a stop to attacks on Turkish territory from the Syrian border regions.
“Turkey is ready to take joint steps both with the international coalition forces and with Russia,” Erdogan noted.
The operation, called Euphrates Shield, involves Turkish special forces, the Turkish army and about 1,500 militants that operates under the brand of the so-called “Free Syrian Army.” First of all, the Turkish-led forces are going to seize Jarablus from ISIS.
According to Reuters, Turkish battle tanks have already crossed the border and operates inside Syria.
Media reports say that Anakara had notified Moscow about its operation to liberated the strategic town of Jarablus from ISIS. Turkish broadcaster NTV reported that according to military sources the operation to take control of Jarablus may take 15 days.
It’s hard to indicate militant groups involved in the Turkish operation. For exmplle, Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki militants have been already spotted in the are of operation:
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE MILITARY SITUATION:
- At 4 a.m. Turkish military started to shell massively ISIS targets near Jarablus
- By 8 a.m. some 250 Turkish special forces (Maroon Berets) and Turkish-backed 1,500 militants entered Syria
- Sources estimate the total number of militants that can be invoved in the operation is over 1,500. The map below depicts the numbers redeployed from the Syrian provinces of Aleppo and Latakia.
- By 12 a.m. few Turkish battle tanks and vehicles reportedly entered Syria to support the operation
- Turkish warplanes, artillery and military equipment have been continuing to hit ISIS targets near Jarablus. Despite Turkish claims, no US-led coalition warplanes have been involved.
- Reports appear that Turkish technicals are preparing a corridor for further deployment of Turkish troops and military equipment to the Syrian territory. Experts believe that Ankara can involve up to 2 divisions from is the 7th Corps of the 2nd Army (a detailed analysis of the possible invasion force)
- The Turkish army and Turkish-backed militants have seized Kaklijan, al-Haluwinayah, Tal Shair and now are heading towards Dhashtan
- The Kurdish Firat news agency (ANFNews) reported that 29 civilians have been killed by Turkish forces and some 3,000 ethnic Kurds have fled Jarablus and its neighboring areas since the start of the operation. The reports can not be confirmed independently.
Turkey’s strategic goals
Various speculations appear that the Euphrates Shield is amied on creation of a large buffer zone in northern Syria in order to prevent the expansion of influence of US-backed Kurdish militants along the border. Right now it is unclear how Ankara will act after seizing Jarablus. However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu already emphasized that Kurdish militants have to remain east of the Euphrates River or Turkey will “do what is necessary.”
There are no doubts that Turkey is pursuing to eleminate the so-called “Kurdish threat” in northern Syria. Roughly, the plan looks like:
- Turkish military and Turkish-backed militants push ISIS out of Jarablus (tactical goal)
- Turkish-backed militant groups continue advance on ISIS from the direction of Azaz. With assistance of Turkey’s ground and air forces, militants will attempt to seize and secure the whole area between Jarablus and Azaz (mid term goal)
- The Turkish-backed forces will likely attempt to sieze the town of al Bab from the ISIS in Syria’s Aleppo province. Meanwheile, the Turkish government will put diplomatic pressure on the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in order to push US-backed PYD-linked forces (or just call them the Syrian Democratic Forces as western media like) out from the areas west of the Euphrates River.
If the goals are achieved, the Turkish-backed militant groups will strengthen its position in Syria, significantly, and will be able to play a major role in the renewed talks on diplomatic solution of the Syrian conflict.