Turkey must secure its borders with Syria

Published 30.10.2018 20:49

The administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is obligated to secure Turkey's borders and that includes its southern border with Syria, a country that has been ripped apart by a civil war.

Terrorist groups inside Syria settled along our southern borders as the forces of Bashar Assad withdrew from these areas during the civil war.

Ankara tried to work with the international community to find a way to rid our borders of these terrorists but realized the only way out was to take matters into its own hands.

Daesh was openly posing a serious threat to Turkish security with missile launches, bomb attacks and sending suicide bombers that killed scores of Turkish civilians.

So, in August 2016, Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield to push Daesh away from its borders and thus liberated chunks of Syrian territory with the help of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Turkey pushed Daesh out of both Jarablus and al-Bab during the successful military campaign.

Then, again with the help of the FSA, Turkey also crushed the PKK-affiliated militants of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the People's Protection Units (YPG) and threw them out of the Afrin region south of the Turkish border. Thus, Turkey secured most of its border areas in Syria west of the Euphrates river.

Turkey did all that for the security of its own people; thus, Turkey showed the world that if its security and vital interests are threatened, it will take matters into its own hands. Turkey did not undertake these operations for territorial gains or to establish a permanent military presence in another land. It has declared it will return these areas to Syrians once a political settlement to end the civil war is reached and the people of Syria decide on their future according to their free will.

The fact that the U.S. is providing intense military assistance to the YPG, PYD and PKK with heavy arms and ammunition, training their forces and giving them logistic support is complicating matters, especially as the Americans have the PKK on their list of terrorist organizations.

Now, there are two outstanding issues. One is the continued occupation of the Syrian Arab region of Manbij by the YPG, PYD and the PKK. Turkey and the U.S. have charted a cooperative course for the withdrawal of the militants and according to the joint agreement, will soon start joint military patrols in Manbij. Yet, according to the deal, the militants should have withdrawn from Manbij weeks ago but have not; instead, they are digging ditches, which seems to suggest they are preparing for a fight. Erdoğan has openly said if they fail to withdraw from the area to the east of the Euphrates, those ditches will "save us the trouble of digging their graves."

The other outstanding issue is the presence of the YPG, PYD and PKK in the eastern areas of the Euphrates in Syria along the border areas with Turkey. Turkey wants them out of the region, and Erdoğan said Tuesday addressing his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputies that Ankara has laid plans to push the PKK-linked terrorists out of the area. This came after Turkey, in an unprecedented move on Saturday, shelled PYD, YPG and PKK positions east of the Euphrates near the city of Kobani. It seemed this was a message to friends and foes that Turkey means business, and its patience is running out.

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