ISTANBUL, Feb. 16 (Xinhua) -- Turkey may have to review its plans in Syria as its military operation against Kurdish militia in Afrin has been progressing more slowly than expected, analysts said.
The military and political situation should be reexamined given the current picture in the operation, said Haldun Solmazturk, a former general in the Turkish military.
"The operation looks to be bogged down, a new course of action needs to be pondered," he opined.
On Jan. 20, Turkish troops launched "Operation Olive Branch" in Syria's Afrin, in a bid to drive out the Kurdish militia, known as the People's Protection Units (YPG) , which is regarded by Ankara as the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The next day, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the operation would be carried out in a swift way, while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced hope that it would be completed "in a very short time."
The advance into Afrin so far has not been as fast as expected despite the seizure of a number of places, including some critical terrains, from the Kurdish militants.
A very small town, over 40 villages as well as 17 strategic hills have been captured till now in the battle, according to Turkish media reports.
Top Turkish officials have repeatedly said Ankara would move next to drive the Kurdish militia out of Syria's Manbij, where U.S. troops are based, and send troops to Idlib now under control of jihadist groups.
Now bogged down in Afrin, it is difficult for the Turkish army to launch another operation for the moment, said Solmazturk, who chairs the Incek debates at the Ankara-based 21st Century Turkey Institute.
The hilly and muddy terrain is one factor which appears to have slowed down the advance of the Turkish troops.
"It is strange the advance has been slow," said Hasan Koni, a professor of public international law at Istanbul Kultur University.
He noted that the troops have jets and tanks to support the ground offensive.
"The terrain may be hilly, but the progress of the operation against a terrorist group is rather limited," Koni said.
The YPG is estimated to have some 8,000 to 10,000 fighters in Afrin. But the Turkish troops, backed by an estimated 22,000-strong Free Syrian Army (FSA), a Syrian rebel group, have been attacking the YPG from three sides.
Turkey may need to reevaluate its targets in Syria if the operation drags on, said Koni.
Ankara is widely believed to be seeking to forge a Sunni-dominated area in northern Syria by supporting the FSA and some moderate rebel groups in Idlib.
Public reactions against the operation may also mount as the list of casualties grows longer and the economy is negatively affected, cautioned Koni.
Thirty-two Turkish soldiers and 43 FSA militants have so far been killed in the fighting, while at least 1,551 Kurdish militants have been "neutralized," according to official data.
Turkish press reports said that it may take about one month for the Turkish army to reach the outskirts of Afrin where the YPG has its headquarters based. The town is estimated to have a population of 400,000 to 500,000.
The operation may last until the end of spring or mid-summer, according to analysts.
Koni feels that some setbacks suffered by the Turkish military in recent years may have negatively affected its capacity to fight.
Hundreds of military officers were removed or jailed between 2008 and 2015 based on charges of plotting to topple the government and espionage.
Then in the wake of a coup attempt in July 2016 by some in the military, around 8,500 members of the armed forces were dismissed over alleged links to a group blamed for masterminding the putsch. As a result, the military has lost around 40 percent of its generals and many of its pilots.
Solmazturk does not expect the operation to gain momentum in a significant way in the days ahead.
As the battle drags on, not only difficulties and casualties on the ground, but also international pressure should be expected to increase, he said.
Meanwhile, the YPG, which is armed and trained by the U.S., keeps getting reinforcements and weapons from other areas under its control thanks to cooperation by the Syrian army, press reports said.