Turkey had been planning its ground incursion in Syria for more than two years, but delayed the operation several times. Now the country is allegedly ready to increase a number of its troops in Syria up to 15,000.
Turkey’s “ground incursion” into northern Syria had been being planned by the Turkish government for over two years, the AFP news agency reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed Turkish official.
“The Turkish government had been working on a ground incursion for more than two years, but it was delayed by several factors,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
According to the official, the intervention plan was discussed by Turkey and the US last June. He also added that the US-backed operation was delayed due to Turkish coup attempt, started by elements in the Turkish Army on July 15. Deterioration of Russo-Turkish relations after Moscow’s jet was downed by Ankara’s military over Syria last year also was one of the obstacles of the operation. The risk of a further confrontation with Moscow put an end to all Turkish air operations over Syria that would be essential for any ground operation, the official noted.
“It became practically impossible to implement our plans due to a lack of air cover,” he said.
However, recent meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin marked the beginning of improvement of relations between the two countries.
Turkish soldiers, who allegedly are hunting terrorists of the Islamic State (IS) group, are accused of helping ‘opposition’ groups, giving them free passages into Syria and out of the country.
According to Hurriyet daily’s columnist Abdulkadir Selvi, there were 450 Turkish military on the Syrian ground on the first day of the incursion, but this number could rise to 15,000.
Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said that Syrian Kurds must move back to the east across the Euphrates or they will face action. Syrian Kurdish militias are seen by Turkey as a terrorist group that seeks to create an autonomous region in Syria and act as a Syrian branch of its own outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Now Syrian ‘oppositionists’ plan to clean up the area along the Turkish border, starting from the city of Jarablus and moving to the west, to the town of Marea, Reuters reported, citing a commander of the Sultan Murad group, Ahmad Osman.
According to the commander, current priority is to advance some 70 km westward to Marea and capture all the villages, located between this town and Jarabulus that has been recaptured from IS terrorists by the Turkish Armed Forces. Osman noted that they are not going to fight Kurdish forces that have advanced in northern Syria, but they will do this if necessary. The Sultan Murad’s head said that the operation can take anywhere from several weeks to several months
The Sultan Murad group fights under a banner of the so-called Free Syrian Army that has received various help, including military aid and training, from foreign enemies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.