Turkish military and allied Syrian forces marched into and took control over the centre of the northern
Syrian town of Afrin today nearly two months after launching their offensive, codenamed Olive Branch,
on the Kurdish controlled enclave. The advancing troops faced little resistance from the retreating Kurdish
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the capture of Afrin from the Kurdish militia known as
the People’s Defense Units, or YPG, which Turkey views as a terrorist group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan
Workers’ Party, or PKK. The PKK is an organisation which has waged a decades-long insurgency within
Erdogan has repeatedly said that Turkey will not allow a “terror corridor” along its border and has vowed to
push east after Afrin. Erdogan is threatening to move to Manbij, a Kurdish-run town to the east where U.S.
troops have also maintained a presence after it was cleared of Islamic State militants in 2016.
Washington’s support to the YPG, including arming the militia and relying on it to battle Islamic State
militants in eastern Syria, has strained relations between Turkey and the U.S. A push east could further
inflame tension. In an attempt to prevent such a move east, Washington began discussions to address
Turkey’s concerns about the Kurdish militia’s presence in Manbij. Turkey wants the YPG to pull out from the
Since the beginning of Turkey’s operation in Afrin, some 47 Turkish soldiers have been killed. The front-line
fighting has mainly been carried out by the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army forces, with the Turks providing
artillery, air, tank, and logistical support.
It is not clear how Turkey’s “olive branch” operation will continue since the capture of Afrin. As the
Turkey-backed forces push forward east from Afrin, it is likely that they may well be confronted by Syrian
Government backed forces or by the Syrian Army itself. The status of America with regards its presence in
Manbij is also still not settled. Anything could happen.
Turkey has put a great deal of resources into its “olive branch” operation, which is understandably having a
significant drain on Turkey’s finances. Should Turkey’s military operations continue, the Turkish economy
will have a very heavy price to pay.