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Published On: Mon, Oct 16th, 2017

Turkey expands military deployment in Syria to encircle Syrian – Kurdish YPG

nsnbc : Turkey’s military has been expanding its deployment in northwest Syria with the stated goal of encircling the Syrian – Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Idlib province. Turkey uses the Free Syrian Army with its ties to Islamist terrorist organizations as buffer against Kurds and to consolidate Turkey’s occupation.

Turkish troops in Idlib on reconnaissance before the main deployment.

Turkish troops in Idlib on reconnaissance before the main deployment.

Turkey overstepped its quasi-legal authorization for the deployment of troops to a de-confliction zone in Syria’s Idlib province under the provisions of the Astana agreements guaranteed by Russia, Iran and Turkey, by now using the deployment to Idlib province to fight the YPG.

The stated objective of Turkey’s expansion of its deployment in Idlib is to build a barrier against the YPG so it cannot unite its forces in the Efrin (Afrin) region, north of Idlib, with units located in Jendaris in the Barakat Mountains.

Turkey’s military has deployed tanks and Stinger missiles, backed by receptors and a hi-tech computer system, in Idlib. Armed drones are also reportedly conducting surveillance flights. A convoy of Turkish troops entered Syria near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing on October 12.

It was the first “official” deployment since last year, when Ankara launched a major ground and air offensive to clear YPG and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants from its last stretch of border with Turkey.

The United States are backing the YPG and its all-female branch the YPJ. The YPG/YPJ are the primary constituent of the also U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Turkey, on the other hand, considers the PYD and its armed wings, the YPG/YPJ as terrorist organizations allied and on par with Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).

Deployment plan for Tyrkey's Armed Forces in Idlib.

Deployment plan for Tyrkey’s Armed Forces in Idlib.

At least four convoys carrying scores of armored vehicles and equipment have been stationed in several locations in the first phase of a deployment that is expected to deepen inside Syria’s “rebel-held Idlib”, opposition sources said. “Nearly 200 troops are now stationed in areas that separate territory under control of Kurdish groups and opposition groups,” said Ibrahim al-Idlibi, a military adviser in the opposition’s Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is backed by Turkey.

Witnesses reported that Turkish bulldozers were working around the clock, digging fortifications and setting up observation posts. A new deployment of Turkish armored vehicles and personnel arrived along the Syrian border on October 14, positioned on the Turkish side, witnesses said. “Turkish forces are still in a state of advancing and expanding,” said Mustafa al Sejari, an FSA official.

Turkey says its operations there, along with the FSA, is part of a deal it reached last month with Russia and Iran in Astana, Kazakhstan to reduce fighting between insurgents and the Syrian government. Parliament Spokesperson İsmail Kahraman said on October 14 that Ankara and Moscow are working in “close coordination” on Syria. “Multifaceted cooperation with Russia is one of the key elements of our foreign policy. We are in close coordination on Syria as well,”

Syria on October 14, denounced the Turkish move, saying it was a flagrant violation of its sovereignty and demanding that Ankara pull out its troops. FSA rebel groups said the goal of the campaign was to push deeper into the province, with the expansion of supply lines and observation posts. The jihadists would be retreating further south in a phased withdrawal. “The Turks will be taking up positions 40 km deep inside Idlib as agreed,” Idlibi said.

The goal is ultimately to create a contiguous stretch that goes from Bab al-Hawa all the way to Jarablus city, west of Euphrates River and as far south as the city of al-Bab, widening a pocket of the northern border under the control of Turkey-backed rebels.

It should be noted that both the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Turkey have a years-long history of cooperating with Syria’s al-Qaeda franchise Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamist insurgent groups, terrorist groups and criminal gangs in Idlib, Lattakia and Aleppo. Idlib is a hotbed of Jabhat al-Nusra and allied insurgents.

The establishment of a Kurdish State with breathing straw access to the Mediterranean. Map plottings by Major (r) Agha H. Amin. (2012)

The establishment of a Kurdish State with breathing straw access to the Mediterranean. Map plottings by Major (r) Agha H. Amin. (2012)

Tahrir al-Sham, spearheaded by the re-branded Jabhat al-Nusra is  clearly the dominant military insurgent force in Idlib. Turkey’s support of the Islamist radicals can hardly be hidden. For Ankara the al-Qaeda affiliates are – despite all official denial – Ankara’s spearhead against a Kurdish – and Armenian Christian – expansion into Idlib and Latakia provinces.

Local residents report time and time again that Turkish military vehicles enter Idlib and then travel under Tahrir al-Sham escort along a road. In fact, Tahrir al-Sham “rebels” repeatedly boasted about the fact when they released videos and photos showing the grotesque situation in social media.

The large concentration of Islamist insurgents in Idlib province and in part Latakia has been caused by a number of factors. The primary factor is proximity to the Turkish border and Turkey’s sustained support of the armed wing of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood starting in 2011, and a wide variety of other insurgencies including internationally outlawed terrorist organizations since then.

Another contributing factor is that numerous agreements between the conflicting parties in Syria resulted in the withdrawal of al-Nusra and other insurgents from disputed areas in exchange for free passage for insurgents and their families to Idlib.

These agreements included the withdrawal of al-Nusra and allied fighters and families from the city of Aleppo in 2016, and the evacuation of al-Nusra and allied troops and families from the Qalamoun region on the Syrian – Lebanese border to Idlib in 2017.

CH/L – nsnbc 16.10.2017

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