Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced on Wednesday that Turkey will launch another military operation into Northern Syria targeting Kurdish YPG forces.
While addressing lawmakers of the AKP party, Erdogan stated that “We are going into the new phase of our determination to form a 30km (20mi) deep safe zone along our southern border. We will clear Tal Rifaat and Manbij of terrorists, and we will do the same to other regions step-by-step,” adding “Let’s see who supports these legitimate steps by Turkey and who hinders them.”
This comes a week after Erdogan stated that Turkey will “soon take new steps regarding the incomplete portions of the project we started on the 30-km deep safe zone we established along our southern border,” further emphasizing Turkey’s commitment to countering Kurdish presence in northern Syria. Turkey has carried out two major military incursions into Northern Syria targeting Kurdish forces along the border in recent years, such as Operation Olive Branch in 2018 and Operation Peace Spring in 2019 with the goal of establishing a “buffer zone” along Syria’s northern border that would push back Kurdish forces.
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have also signaled readiness and willingness to back Turkish military operations again. Reuters, citing senior military leadership of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army, reported that rebel forces have been given orders to step up attacks on YPG held areas and take an offensive stance for an assault.
While Kurdish forces of the YPG make up a large portion of the United States-led counter terrorism coalition in Syria, Turkey considers them to be a terrorist organization and one in the same with the PKK, a designated terrorist group by both Turkey and the US. Turkey has been largely critical of American support to the YPG and the Kurdish SDF, with Erdogan saying just this week that “All coalition forces, leading with the U.S., have provided these terror groups a serious amount of weapons, vehicles, tools, ammunition and they continue to do so. The U.S. has given them thousands of trucks.” Relations between Turkey and the US have steadily deteriorated over the past 10 years over support of Kurdish forces in the region. This rift has also transcended to Turkey distancing itself with other NATO members over their continued support of Kurdish forces. This can also be echoed with Turkey’s attempts to block Swedish and Finish membership into the treaty organization over their relations to Kurdish fighting and political groups in Syria and Iraq.