BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:30 P.M.) – The Turkish military has launched daily attacks on three large towns in three different governorates in northern Syria this week, prompting fears of a new offensive that will be led by the forces loyal to Ankara east of the Euphrates.
According to a field reporter in the Aleppo Governorate, the Turkish military’s recent string of attacks on Manbij (Aleppo), ‘Ain ‘Issa (Al-Raqqa) and Tal Tamr (Al-Hasakah) are not a coincidence, as Ankara has set its sights on taking these three towns to increase their “security corridor” in northern Syria.
Moreover, these three towns have a large presence of troops from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Ankara considers to be an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who was at war with the Turkish military for several years.
Similar to their operation in September 2019, the Turkish military and their allied militants have been launching heavy strikes on the SDF’s positions in Manbij, ‘Ain ‘Issa and Tal Tamr, with the occasional attack on the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) troops nearby.
Turkey has complained about the presence of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Manbij before, but an agreement with the SDF’s Manbij Military Council was supposed to end hostilities; it appears to have only delayed Ankara’s plans to take the town.
Now with a large number of mercenaries returning from Azerbaijan after the Karabakh operation, Turkey can use its proxy forces to move into these areas, despite the fact that there is a large number of civilians, many displaced, living in these towns.
The Syrian Democratic Forces’ command has called on the Russian and Syrian military forces to respond to these violations; however, it remains unclear if they will intervene, as Moscow has been reluctant to aid the SDF in past due to their ties to the U.S. military.
The next few weeks will be crucial for the SDF, who is already bogged down fighting the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh) in eastern Syria; they may have to shift their attention to the northern region of the country to face a major threat posed by the forces loyal to Ankara.