On Wednesday, Turkish troops launched a ground anti-ISIS offensive. They crossed the border into northern Syria with armored tanks.
According to Turkish media, the goal of the operation, dubbed Euphrates Shield, is to secure the Syrian-Turkish border against ISIS terrorists.
So far, the only known military action the Turkish army has only flown warplanes above the Syrian territory. These incursions were part of the US-led coalition air raids.
However, they have never fought on Syrian land before. But early on Wednesday Turkey sent a number of tanks across the Syrian border. Thus began the anti-ISIS offensive, with the town of Jarablus. This ISIS-controlled town is just one kilometer away from Turkey.
During the last few days, the Turkish military has been bombing Islamic State and Kurdish forces. These attacks came a response to Syrian mortar blasts that targeted the residential areas of the Karkamis, a Turkish border town.
The situation in the middle East grows ever more complicated. Even though the main target of this Turkish offensive is ISIS, also bombed Kurdish YPG fighters on Monday Turkey. YPG is the military branch of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
The Kurdish forces and the US are allies in their attempt to drive off ISIS forces from the region. They have been systematically trying to cut-off an ISIS resupply line coming from Turkey.
Turkey is certain that the PYD has ties with the Kurdish insurgents in their country. Although the Kurds and Turks are fighting a common enemy and both are allies of the US in this struggle, Turkey still remains hostile towards the Turks.
Anti-ISIS Offensive Is Fraught with Tension
Efkan Ala, the Turkish Minister of Interior has stated that, “we are working together with coalition and moderate opposition. Turkey will not allow terrorist organizations next to us to threaten Turkey. What is indispensable for Turkey is the territorial unity of Syria”. His statement would seem to indicate that the offensive is not targeting just ISIS.
The US has not made any official statement regarding this anti-ISIS offensive. All media outlets are looking towards Vice-President Joe Biden, who will arrive in Ankara for a scheduled meeting.
The relation between Turkey and the US is a very delicate at the moment. Not just because of the complicated Turkish-Kurdish-American triangle of interests, but because Turkey has been increasingly trying to reach out to Russia.
It seems Turkey is showing signs that it’s trying to purse a pro-Russian relationship because of the Westerns world’s unsympathetic reaction to the recent military coup.
Turkey is a very special position when it comes to aiding the US against ISIS, because it is a member of NATO. But the Kurds have proven that they are an extremely efficinet ally in this anti-ISIS war as well.
If the Turkish army continues to move into Syrian territory, they might have to face the Kurdish army. This will no doubt lead to a very tense situation, not just on a local level, but on a global one as well.
And with all of this political and military confusions, there’s a very high risk ISIS might take advantage of the whole situation. Paradoxically, an anti-ISIS offensive launched by the Turkish military and backed by the US might actually benefit ISIS.
Turkish officials have announced that they plan to create a safe zone between Marea and Jarablus of about 25 by 55 miles. The area is intended for refugees.
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