Operation Olive Branch, launched by Turkey to eliminate PKK's Syrian affiliate People's Protection Units (YPG) from Afrin, is expected to pave the way for achieving future strategic goals as the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) take firm steps forward, experts argued.
"Turkey takes slow but firm steps in Afrin operation which substantially reduce the risk of harming civilians and causalities from the Turkish side," Murat Arslan, an academic from Hasan Kalyoncu University said speaking in a panel organized by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA).
Turkey has long stressed that it will not allow the Democratic Union Party (PYD) or any actors affiliated with the PYD/YPG to form a terror corridor along its borders and openly announced an operation to Afrin with the aim of eliminating threats to its national security.
"Afrin was not Turkey's first strategic goal, it was Hasakah. However, it is not always possible to launch operations in line with your strategic goals on the ground," Hasan Basri Yalçın, an academic from Istanbul Commerce University said, and added that when the Afrin operation is completed "Turkey would eventually move its direction to east in the fight against terrorism."
Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012 when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without a fight. On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions and its sovereign right to self-defense under the UN Charter.Highlighting that Ankara has comprehensively planned Operation Olive Branch, Arslan said that "prior to the operation the Turkish Foreign Ministry has expressed the legitimate concerns of Turkey and all the mechanisms of the state from national intelligence service to the aid organizations have been prepared to support the operation in coordination."
Arslan also stated that Turkish forces have been mentoring the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and managed to follow a fine line of coordination, even though it is considered difficult to conduct such operations with a group which is not a regular army.
Touching on the international actors' stance toward Turkey's ongoing Afrin operation, Yalçın stated that Russia might aim to show the YPG that the U.S. can desert it at any moment. He added that the conditional cooperation between Russia and Turkey might continue following the Operation Olive Branch, which might worry Iran.
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