Operation Peace Spring is proceeding and the Turkish military has already taken control of a number of specific targets in northern Syria. Aerial bombardment started at the beginning of the week and on Wednesday evening we saw the land operation commencing as well.
Where are we now? What is Turkey's plan and strategy? Is the situation really as dramatic as the Western media usually reports? Who is the target? Kurdish civilians or terror elements? What about the reaction on the ground? What are the principles that guide the Turkish forces?
I spoke to several key actors and decision-makers in this operation and tried to find answers to these questions.
First of all I want to start with the claim of targeting civilians or having civilian casualties.
For me, this is the most important issue. It is more important than the result. If any civilians are deliberately hurt or targeted, the operation will loose its rational ground. Therefore, I asked the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and learnt about a principle which is very clear: the TSK specifies a target. If they are going to hit from the air, the area affected by the air bombing which will be affected is calculated. Then they see the data they have already collected from the ground and see whether there are any civilians or religious or cultural centers or even infrastructure in this area.
If the answer is "yes," if there is a single civilian on the street or any civilian building nearby, they cancel the bomb. The officials I spoke to were very clear about this principle.
When I heard about this, I thought about the American operations, where there is this concept of "collateral damage." The American army finds a target to hit then they examine the area and if they find civil elements they look at the importance of the target; if it is above average, they carry out the operation regardless of the civilian elements, which has caused thousands of civilian deaths over the years.
On the other hand the TSK's most sensitive point is the civilians. I think this should be seen in the West.
Turkey wants to secure its borders and that is why it is operating against the terror elements. Turkish intelligence has worked for 1.5 years on the area to specify the ammunition and tunnels used by the PKK-linked People's Protection Units (YPG), which targets Turkey with weapons and bombs.
This operation is not about conquering a land or changing regional demography. I think Turkey cannot express itself well enough about its sensibilities. The Kurdish as well as the Arab population is very precious for Ankara.
In Turkey, the Kurdish population exceeds 20 million, and we live together with our Kurdish brothers and sisters. It is not in Turkey's interest to displace people; on the other hand Turkey does want a unified and authentic Syria for its own interest.