On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the start of Turkey's military operation in Afrin, where the PKK's Syrian branch, PYD-YPG, had established de facto control in January 2014. The ground incursion, baptized as Operation Olive Branch, shows the country's commitment to fighting PKK terrorists amid controversial efforts by the United States to transform the group's Syrian franchise into a regular army behind the smokescreen of 'border security.'
Turkey's second major military operation in Northern Syria aims to accomplish several missions:
First, Turkey considers the long-standing PKK presence in Northern Syria, including Afrin, a serious threat against the territorial integrity of its southern neighbor. The PKK's efforts to create autonomous regions across the Turkish-Syrian border and a recent statement by the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh about plans to transform the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, which was established to conceal Washington's partnership with local PKK elements in the first place, into a Border Security Force are considered as direct threats against the long-term stability of Syria.
Moreover, the PKK presence in Northern Syria, including Afrin, has resulted in an uptick in the number of terror attacks against Turkish civilians and security forces in recent years. In particular, PKK militants in Afrin, which is located across the border from Hatay, have been responsible for dozens of attacks in southern Turkey. By establishing itself in the Taurus mountains, the PKK sought to expand its violent campaign into Turkey's Mediterranean coast.
Finally, the Turkish military operation is expected to liberate Afrin from the yoke of PKK-PYD terrorists, who have been oppressing local communities and ruling the area with an iron fist. By removing the PKK-linked administrators from the area, Turkey hopes to create necessary conditions for the local population to govern itself. At the same time, Ankara wants to repair Afrin's social fabric and rebuilt the area's economic infrastructure to ensure long-term stability. An added benefit of peace and stability in Northern Syria would be the return of hundreds of thousands of Syrian Kurds, who have been banished from their lands by the PKK overlords, to Syria. Hence the support for Afrin residents for Turkey's ground incursion.
To be clear, Turkey has the necessary experience to rebuild Afrin. The country has successfully rebuilt places like Jarabulus and Al-Bab, which had been liberated from Daesh terrorists as part of Operation Euphrates Shield. In the wake of the SDF's secret agreement with Daesh, which resulted in the release of over 1,000 militants from Raqqa, the Free Syrian Army has successfully prevented Daesh terrorists from reaching Turkey's borders. Following the liberation of Afrin, the Turkish military could answer calls from the local tribes in Manbij, which have been occupied by the PKK militants with U.S. support, to establish another 'safe zone' in the area.
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