The Turkish invasion of Afrin, Syria explained in 300 words

Image via  @DefenseUnits

Image via @DefenseUnits

For years, the Kurdish-majority Afrin canton in north-western Syria remained one of the few areas in the country which have not found them in the whirlwind of the seven year long war. That situation changed on 20 January 2018 when the combined force of the Turkish Armed Forces and a collage of Syrian rebel groups financed by Turkey invaded the canton. Dubbed 'Olive Branch', and founded on baselessly claims surrounding the existence of Daesh fighters in Afrin, the Turkish state defined terrorism as the main justification for the invasion. 

The operation started on three fronts: north, west and east. Syrian rebel groups, consisted of some Free Syrian Army factions, Turkmen neo-Ottomanists and a wealth of jihadi fighters affiliated with the Levant Front, Ahrar al Sham and Nour al Din Al Zinki amongst others, have led the ground invasion supported by Turkish soldiers, artillery and armored batallions as well as the Turkish Air Force.

Recent purges in the Turkish army and the low level of training amongst Turkish-financed rebels have taken a toll. Although helped immensely by the air superiority, their gains have been slow yet somewhat steady on the north and west front. However, on the eastern front the rebels have accomplished next to nothing.

Turkish president Erdogan claimed that their next stop will be Manbij, however, his claims are to be taken with a dose of scepticism. To commit to taking Manbij and potentially the rest of Rojava, Erdogan would have to mobilize a larger part of the army than he already has. However, it is quite possible that his goals is not an all-out war against the Syrian Kurds, but merely a limited-sized operation, large enough to garner support before the Turkish elections, but small enough not to risk more casualties than necessary. Turkish reporters have already received talking points from the state, and hundreds of journalists and critics of the operation had been detained. It seems that (manufactured) public opinion is paramount in this case. 

Demian Vokši