This Wednesday, Turkey made the announcement that it is going to carry on with operations in Syria. Turkish forces are aiming to drive the Islamic State out of the town of al-Bab. Turkey said that it is going to go on with its military offensive. Even if it has received forceful responses from the other side of the conflict. Forces that are allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have issued a warning to Turkey. Also, the rebels that Turkey supports in the region were the target of a helicopter attack. Even so, Turkey is going to press on with efforts to take back al-Bab from the Islamic State.
Turkish Military Operations in Syria
Turkey launched this particular incursion into Syria two months ago. The goal was to drive away Islamic State militants from the Syrian border with Turkey. Aside from halting the advances of the Islamic State towards their own country, Turkish forces have another goal. That is to make sure that, after they clear the region of Islamic State militants, Kurdish fighters don’t take over. There is the possibility of Kurdish forces taking advantage of the situation and strengthening their position in the region. Already having a difficult time with the PKK within their own borders, Turkey doesn’t want to see Kurdish fighters on the rise. The different interests that are at play here have made the battlefield in the northern Syria complicated. Considering key regional actors, one sole alliance of forces against the Islamic State is difficult to achieve.
The rebels that Turkey supports are pushing south towards the town of al-Bab. The town is 35 km (22 miles) to the northeast of Aleppo and is under the control of the Islamic State. As they are gaining ground they are going to run into Kurdish fighters and pro-Assad forces. With this in mind, a confrontation is possible.
Operations Will Continue
Forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have already warned Turkey not to take this any further. The forces that support al-Assad together make a diverse alliance. It includes Lebanese group Hezbollah, members of the Iraqi militia and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The field commander of these forces warned Turkey against making an advance towards their positions to the north and to the east of Aleppo. In his words, Turkey’s efforts would be met “decisively and with force”.
The statement from the field commander came as he was touring the Syrian forces frontline to the north of Aleppo. This was one day after a Syrian helicopter carried out a barrel bomb attack on the rebels that Turkey supports. However, Turkey remained steadfast in a statement by its foreign minister.
“This kind of attack will not stop our fight against Daesh (Islamic State). This operation will continue until al-Bab. The operation needs to continue, and it will.”
Said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at a press conference in Ankara.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the military operations aim to secure the town of al-Bab and the town of Manbij. The goal is to push back against the Islamic State. But Turkish operations are not going to go as far as Aleppo.
“Let’s make a joint fight against terrorist organizations. But Aleppo belongs to the people of Aleppo … making calculations over Aleppo would not be right.”
Said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a speech in Ankara.
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