Turkey’s slow and costly Afrin adventure

When it was launched on Jan. 20th, Turkey’s population was assured that “Operation Olive Branch”, the invasion of the Kurdish-controlled Syrian enclave of Afrin, would be brought to a swift and victorious conclusion.

But, more than a month after the invasion began, things are not turning out that way, wrote Paul Iddon in the blog “War is Boring.”

“In spite of Turkey’s grounds for optimism, the Turkish military has failed to make serious gains during Olive Branch’s first month. An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 YPG fighters have held their own against 25,000 Turkish-backed FSA militiamen supported with Turkish artillery and aircraft.”

Progress has been slowed by a number of factors. Amongst them has been the need to avoid antagonising Russia, which controls Afrin’s airspace, access to which is vital to the Turkish operation.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has also opposed the invasion, ordering the deployment of anti-aircraft missile batteries in Aleppo and Idlib provinces from where they can threaten Turkish aircraft.

Assad has also allowed People’s Protection Units (YPG) reinforcements to reach Afrin through territory he controls.

The deployment this week of pro-government Syrian forces to Afrin, in support of the Kurdish forces, further complicates the military situation.

In Iddon’s view, “Operation Olive Branch” will likely drag on for months, with increasing costs for Turkey.

  “If Turkey is seriously contemplating taking on Damascus and the YPG simultaneously, then it could well end up biting off more than it can chew.

“Turkey’s only other choice, which is much more logical, is to end Olive Branch - having achieved no decisive, never mind “swift,” military victory.”