Turkish operations in northern Syria have begun

The first mechanized elements of the Turkish vanguard crossed the Syrian border this morning, to prepare for what promises to be a massive operation by the Turkish army to clear a 30 km strip between the Turkish-Syrian border and the territory controlled by the Kurdish YPG forces. The objective announced by President Erdogan is to reach the line marked by the M-4 highway, which runs along the border with Turkey, and which leads to the town of Manjib, in order to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state adjoining its border. The first Turkish units must pave the way for a force which will bring together, according to Turkish officials, tens of thousands of men, as well as numerous tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers.

Kurdish fighters immediately called on all forces to join the front line, to oppose the Turkish incursion. The YPG, for “People's Protection Units”, brings together 50.000 Kurdish fighters in Syria, of which around 10.000 are active. They can be reinforced by the YPJ, or “women’s protection units”, which bring together between 10.000 and 20.000 volunteers. Depending on the political and social consequences of the Turkish operation, it is not excluded that forces from the Peshmerga, the forces of Iraqi Kurdistan, will be required to intervene to reinforce the Syrian forces, even if the two organizations maintain not great relationships.

Leopard 2 destroyed Defense News | MBT battle tanks | Syrian conflict
During the Aphrin battle, YPJ fighters managed to destroy tanks Leopard 2A5 of Turkish forces using anti-tank missiles.

These forces showed excellent operational qualities against Daesh, against loyalist Syrian forces and even against Turkish forces. They are partly equipped with Western equipment, supplied by the United States and the Europeans, and have, in particular, anti-tank missiles and portable anti-aircraft missiles. They do not have heavy forces, structured artillery or aviation, but have the advantage of knowing the terrain perfectly, and of having been able to prepare, for several months, reinforced defensive positions, which will make the progression of the forces difficult, and probably costly in terms of material and men.

T129 Turkish APC vehicle Syria Defense News | MBT battle tanks | Syrian conflict
A T_129 Atak light combat helicopter of the Syrian forces above armored personnel carriers on the Syrian border

The American position remains very ambiguous. Officially, American forces deployed in the area alongside the Kurdish forces have not been withdrawn, but President Trump indicated that they would not “oppose” a Turkish intervention, while specifying that if Turkey “went too far”, it would pay the price…. This position, considered incomprehensible by many American parliamentarians, whether Democrats or Republicans, is considered as a blank breast given to the Turkish president by many specialists, and as an abandonment of the Kurdish allies by the United States, beginning a new both the image of the country in this area.

President E. Macron received the representatives of the YPG at the Elysée yesterday Tuesday, but the French position, like that of all Europeans, is largely constrained by the 4 million refugees who remain in Turkey, which President Erdogan can unleash on Europe at any time, thus creating a new migration crisis. No information is given regarding the French special forces believed to be present in the region, but it is unlikely that they will adopt a different posture from that of the American SFs.

Kurds Syria Defense News | MBT battle tanks | Syrian conflict
Although they do not have heavy resources, the YPG fighters are seasoned, mobile, and have the advantage of the terrain

In any case, the Turkish operation launched this morning will probably encounter very significant and organized Kurdish opposition. The Turkish Army will need to demonstrate skills and determination to win the decision against forces as seasoned as the Kurdish fighters. In 1995, the Russian forces at Grosny experienced what a mobile and seasoned infantry force could inflict on mechanized forces, despite equipment considered very efficient, such as the T80. If the launch of this operation had indeed become essential for President Erdogan to maintain his credibility, it could well be, in the long term, the tomb of his ambitions, if the Turkish forces did not manage to achieve their objectives with limited losses, and in short deadlines.

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