Turkey Announces Military Operation In Northern Syria After Russia Withdraws Troops

After Russia withdrew a large number of troops from Syria in order to re-focus them on its war in Ukraine, Turkey announced that it will be carrying out a military operation in northern Syria. Turkish military sources have stated that they have finished preparations for an offensive in Tal Rifaat and Manbij according to London-based news outlet Middle East Eye.

The sources reportedly stated that the timing for the decision to carry out the offensive as a result of Turkey's "ongoing offensive against Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) fighters in northern Iraq" where it is working to end PKK infiltration by sealing the "last remaining land corridor" between Turkey and Iraq.

"The recent PKK activities to transfer fresh forces and ammunition to Iraq from Syria triggered a response" MEE quoted one of the sources as saying. "These two operations must continue simultaneously".

"This isn’t solely about Russia getting bogged down in Ukraine. There are Ankara’s own concerns and intelligence on PKK activities in Syria" the source reportedly added.

The Turkish offensive will be the "fourth of its kind" in northern Syria since 2016 according to MEE and its purpose will be "combating threats to Turkey from the Islamic State (IS) group and PKK-allied Syrian Kurdish groups".

Turkey, along with the United States, European Union, and other western countries have designated the PKK as a terrorist organization. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated earlier this week that the military will be targeting two areas west of the Euphrates River. "We are taking another step in establishing a 30km security zone along our southern border. We will clean up Tal Rifaat and Manbij".

A military source told MEE that "The YPG has conducted at least 100 attacks on Syrian rebel-held territories and Turkish military bases in the form of rockets, anti-tank missiles, cannon fire, and multiple rocket launchers".

MEE also reported that Turkish military sources say that Russian forces have "largely left the area" and that Turkey does not expect government forces from Syria to repel any attack by Turkey.

"The [Turkish] military and Syrian National Army have already completed their preparations and may begin the operation at any moment. Russia is finding it hard to resupply its troops in Tal Rifaat and has already abandoned some of its bases near Aleppo to Iranians" MEE reported the source as saying.

The source also reportedly said that Iran would be 'more concerned' by a Turkish offensive in Tal Rifaat than the Russians would due to the fact that IRGC-allied militias are currently 'actively participating in efforts by the Syrian government to guard northern Aleppo.

"The Iranians don’t want Syrian rebel forces to have a presence near Aleppo," one of the Turkish officials told MEE.