Turkey’s upcoming operation in Syria to extend beyond Afrin

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: As Turkey continues its preparations for the upcoming Afrin operation, the cross-border campaign is said to extend beyond the central northwestern Syrian region, clearing 170-kilometer strip of land from Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists.

The operation, which will be carried out in partnership with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) will begin west at the Afrin- Deir Ballout, Qalaat Samaan axis, and stretch east towards Zouiyan, Douewir and Fiela, in order to create a safe region spanning 4,500 square kilometers.

The PKK’s Syrian offshoot, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), occupies a terror corridor in Syria’s north that stretches from Marea and Azaz to Idlib in the west through the regime-controlled towns Nubbol and Zahra, where a parallel conflict is playing out between PKK/PYD terrorists and the Assad regime, who expelled the PKK from three areas under its occupation in Aleppo, pushing the terror organization back to Sheikh Maqsoud in the north.

Recently, Russia has moved to withdraw from the PKK-occupied regions of Afrin and Tal Rifat, where a number of Russian military bases are currently located, as it pressured the PKK terror organization to hand over control of the regions under its occupation to the Assad regime.

PKK terrorists in a meeting with Russian generals and representatives of the Russian Defense Ministry, refused to “give up their gains in Afrin” and signaled that they were “ready for war with the Turkish army,” according to reports. As the Turkey- Iran- Russia-sponsored Astana process continues, the seventh round kicked off as meeting begun between the warring parties on Dec. 21.

Turkey has rejected a Russian plan that would see control over Afrin handed over to the Assad regime citing the former’s seven-year cooperation with the PKK terror organization, and renewed its determination to launch an operation to clear the region of terrorists.

With an area spanning 3,900 square kilometers, Afrin is set to become the largest area to be cleared by Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) in Syria so far.

Afrin’s population currently stands at 500,000, spread across a total of 340 towns and villages that make up the region. Together with central Afrin, the operation will include a strip that extends 40 kilometers deep into Syria and covers a 4,500-square-kilometer area that includes the towns of Minnigh, Tal Rifa, Harbel, Zouiyan, Fiela and Douweir.

Turkey currently remains on full-alert against any border threats that may originate from Afrin, as it positions troops sent during the Bab Operation and the Idlib deployment along the border, and reinforces posts in the Euphrates Shield regions and border command positions.

The number of on-duty Turkish soldiers and troops deployed to take part in the Afrin operation has reached 20,000, in addition to 15,000 Free Syrian Army (FSA) soldiers that are on the alert for any possible operation in the region. A concrete wall on the border with Syria, which Turkey set out to build in a bid to halt illegal crossings to the southern province of Hatay and prevent terrorist advances into Turkey, is nearing completion as work is still ongoing on setting up the four-meter blocs for the last remaining 10 kilometers of the 230-kilometer wall in Hatay along the border with Syria. The PYD and its military YPG wing are Syrian branches of the PKK, which has waged war against Turkey for more than 30 years. Since the PKK launched its terror campaign in Turkey in 1984, tens of thousands of people have been killed, including more than 1,200 since July 2015 alone.