Turkey has decided not to directly participate in the liberation of the Syrian city of Raqqa and offered to send formations of the Syrian opposition to storm the capital of the Islamic State terrorist group in the country.
The Turkish Army will not be directly involved in the liberation of Raqqa city from terrorists of the Islamic State (IS) group, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on February 19. Instead of this, Ankara offers to send loyal formations of the Syrian opposition to storm the capital of Syrian terrorists, and currently tries to agree on this issue with Washington. As experts noted, sending of Turkish tanks to Raqqa would turn into open war with Syrian Kurds.
During his visit to Germany, Yildirim made it clear that the Turkish Army is not going to participate in the offensive on Raqqa, but it is ready to provide “tactical support” to troops of the Syrian opposition. According to the Turkish prime minister, Ankara wants detachments of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other pro-Turkish formations to take part in the storming of the IS capital.
“We will support them,” Yildirim said, adding that the issue of joint action with the US on liberation of Raqqa is actively discussed now.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are on the offensive on the capital of the self-proclaimed Caliphate. They complete the operation on encircling and ‘isolation’ of Raqqa city, after which the assault on the city should be started. Kurds are supported by the military command of the anti-IS coalition. Last week, deputy commander for the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, British Major General Rupert Jones, said that SDF’s combat capabilities make it the most appropriate force for the liberation of Raqqa.
However, the US tries to act very careful in order not to provoke Turkey. The Pentagon tries not to supply heavy weapons to Syrian Kurds. Any supplies of weapons officially intended to units of the so-called Syrian Arab coalition, manned with ethnic Arabs.
However, the Turkish authorities look for ways to reduce the role of Kurds. According to Turkish media, this issue was discussed at the recent talks with US Vice President Mike Pence and head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Joseph Dunford. At the same time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised that after recapture of al-Bab, the country’s troops would start military action against Kurds, who are considered as terrorists by Ankara, and then would move towards Raqqa.
Experts warn that Ankara’s attempts to expand the zone of influence in the north of Syria, most likely, will lead to opening of another front in the Syrian conflict.
As director of the Center for Strategic Studies Ivan Konovalov told the Izvestiya newspaper, dispatch of Turkish troops to Raqqa could lead to war with Kurds.
“They will either have to move through a narrow corridor, on which Kurds hang from the north-east, or recapture Manbij from them. But the Kurdish Command has already promised that it will use all available forces to avoid capture of Manbij by Turks,” Konovalov said.
The military analyst also added that loud statements of Turkey about participation in the storming of Raqqa are not corroborated by its military capabilities. He noted that “combat characteristics of the FSA cause great doubts,” as well as there are just about 7,000 fighters in its ranks and they still participate in the operation near al-Bab. In addition, Turkish military themselves have no experience of taking of major cities.