Damascus aims to bleed Turkey in Afrin – expert

The Syrian government aims to “bleed Turkey” as its forces seek to take the Kurdish region of Afrin in northern Syria, according to Barak Barfi, a research fellow at the New American Foundation.

Damascus has given the Kurds, who rely on supplies from the Syrian capital, great leeway in the fight with Turkey, Barfi said in an article published by the Washington Institute. Turkey may also experience similar tactical difficulties to Euphrates Shield, an operation that took place in August 2016 to prevent Kurds from linking pockets of territory, he said.

In Euphrates Shield, “its reliance on heavy armor left it vulnerable to light mobile units with antitank missiles. Its aging tank arsenal also lacks sufficient armor to protect against improvised explosive devices, which the PYD (a Kurdish militant group controlling Afrin) possesses,” he said. Air support was also lacking, he said.

Weather is creating obstacles and “large parts of the Afrin pocket are also hilly, making the use of armored vehicles difficult. In short, Olive Branch will prove more challenging than Euphrates Shield, for all of the above reasons.”

Still, resupply for the Kurds is extremely difficult because Afrin is cut off from all sides by Turkey and its allies. Such a multipronged attack will be unfeasible in Manbij, which the Turks are targeting next, because Turkey will only have the border from which to attack, Barfi said.

To deflect Turkish ambitions regarding Manbij, the United States should persuade the PYD to withdraw and increase a U.S. troop contingent in the city to act as a buffer between Turkey and the Kurds, he said. Washington should also move soldiers to Manbij’s border regions with Turkey, to show Ankara that it will not allow a full-scale war along the frontier, he added.