Turkey signals new cross-border operation against terror groups

Published 04.04.2017 23:55
Updated 04.04.2017 23:56

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Monday that Turkey is now preparing for new counterterror operations elsewhere in the region against terrorist groups after completing Operation Euphrates Shield last month. Addressing crowds in northeastern Trabzon province at the opening ceremony for a new city park, Erdoğan said Turkey was planning to launch new counterterror operations in different regions near the border to drive terrorist groups such as the PKK, its Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG), and Daesh out of the country.

In addition, he said yesterday in Zonguldak province that Turkey "crushed Daesh in Jarablus and al-Bab. We dropped the masks of those tearing the region apart by using this [terrorist] group as an excuse." The president added that there was a new game being set up in Iraq's Sinjar, Tal Afar and Kirkuk.

The president further asserted that Turkey will prevent such plans in these areas.

"Turkey has nice surprises for [these] terrorist groups in the upcoming months. We will turn spring into a dark winter for terrorists," he said.

On March 29, Ankara declared that Operation Euphrates Shield, which was launched on Aug. 24 to secure Turkey's southern border, "successfully came to an end."

The officials announced that more than 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles) of land in northern Syria was liberated from Daesh, more than 2,500 terrorists were killed and that some 100,000 people living in Gaziantep are now expected to return to the liberated areas.

They said Turkey had reached its initial goals in the operation by driving Daesh away from the border, which was captured by the terror group after clashes with Syrian opposition groups in 2013, and preventing the creation of a terror-corridor by PKK-linked groups in northern Syria.

The results of Operation Euphrates Shield were also reflected in the statistics. Daesh terror attacks in Turkey, which had increased between July 2015 and August 2016 and killed nearly 300 people, drastically decreased after the operation was launched on Aug. 24, 2016. After that date, Daesh has only been able to carry out one terror attack on Turkish soil.

Even though the operation is now over, Defense Minister Fikri Işık drew attention last week to the threat Turkey continues to face, saying, "The end of Turkey's military operation in northern Syria does not mean the threats are over."

He added that not all the goals of the operation were reached. "As you know, the main goal of Euphrates Shield was to ensure permanent stability in the region, to prevent terrorist elements from establishing total dominion and to enable local residents to return to their homes and live there in safety," Işık said. "The operation is over, but what needs to be done will continue to be done."

While the PKK continues to pose a grave threat to Turkey's national security in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, Ankara may consider an offensive in the area in spring. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey is determined to prevent PKK terrorists from securing a base in northern Iraq's Sinjar region and indicated that Turkey plans to conduct a military operation against the PKK base in Sinjar.

"We [Turkey] will use military options against the PKK in Sinjar. I'm not saying that we will only use military force if necessary, I'm saying that we will use military force without question," Çavuşoğlu told Daily Sabah on his way to Brussels for a NATO meeting in late March.

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