News Analysis: Turkey's end of special operation to avoid confrontation with U.S., Russia: experts

Source: Xinhua| 2017-03-31 22:19:32|Editor: xuxin
Video PlayerClose

ANKARA, March 31 (Xinhua) -- Turkey has declared the end of its "Euphrates Shield" operation in northern Syria, so as not to confront with Russia and the U.S. in Syria, local experts said Friday.

Turkey has officially ended the operation, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on late Wednesday, but suggested there might be more cross-border campaigns to come. He did not specify whether Turkey will withdraw troops.

"Turkey wanted to give the message that it does not have an eye on Syrian lands. Making the statement, Ankara shows good intention in this conjuncture since it does not want confrontation with global forces," Abdullah Agar, a security expert, told Xinhua.

"Operation Euphrates Shield has been successful and is finished. Any operation following this one will have a different name," Yildirim said in a televised interview.

His remarks came one day before the U.S. Secretary of State's visit to Ankara, with the high possibility that Washington will not drop its alliance with the Syrian Kurds for an upcoming offensive in Raqqa, the de facto capital of the jihadist Islamic State (IS).

Last August, Turkey sent troops and military vehicles to support Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels to defeat IS away from its border and stop the advance of Kurdish militia fighters. The Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have captured several towns in northern Syria, including Jarablus, Dabiq and the strategic town of al-Bab.

The IS threat along Turkish border is eliminated, Agar said. He identified the operation successful in military terms, as 3,037 IS members were killed and more than 4,500 explosives were destroyed. No other anti-IS coalition has reached such figures, the expert noted.

"Turkish military proved that this kind of military campaign can maintain stability in this area and it has done the operation with its land owners," Agar said referring to Free Syrian Army fighters.

Nearly 70 Turkish soldiers were killed in the offensive at which Turkish military-backed rebels have gained control of nearly 2,000 square-kilometer area.

After capturing al-Bab town, Turkish leadership vowed the offensive would push the Syrian Kurdish militia out of Manbij, before moving south to Raqqa. But neither of these plans realized, at least for now, as Russia and the U.S. lend support to the People's Protection Units (YPG) of Syrian Kurds.

Ankara sees the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency in Turkey's southeast since 1984 for greater autonomy.

As the Syrian Kurds carve out a self-governing territory in northern Syria, Turkey fears that it will embolden its own large Kurdish minority to try to forge a similar autonomy inside its borders.

Ankara had to declare end of the operation, according to Bora Bayraktar, an international relations academic from Kultur University.

The expert stated that Turkish plans to move further to Manbij were thwarted after Russia has got involved the dispute between the YPG and Turkey as the latter threatened to move beyond east of al-Bab town if the Kurds do not leave Manbij region.

The Kurdish militia handed over several villages in western Manbij to the Syrian army to serve as a buffer zone with the Turkish troops.

He recalled that the U.S. also "unfurled its flag" in the Kurdish region, with some U.S. troops stationed inside and in rural parts of western Manbij, and these moves have deterred a Turkish advance.

Manbij lies about 30 kilometers to the west of the Euphrates River and is strategically important to unite the two Kurdish cantons in northeastern Syria with the third Afrin canton in the western part of the river.

Turkey announced it's operation is over for now, because Ankara does not want to engage in a diplomatic crisis with Russia, the expert said.

"Turkey is now in a phase of waiting. I don't think it will simply withdraw its troops. Turkey is a regional power waiting for a new opportunity," he noted.