Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Turkey ends "Euphrates Shield" mission in Syria, claiming success.

Turkish allied rebels near al-Bab. BBC/Reuters. 

Turkey has officially ended it's Euphrates Shield mission in Syria claiming it ended in success. BBC. It is unclear if operations will continue in Syria or if Turkey will withdraw their troops but any further operations will continue under a different name. Turkey joined the war last August and cleaned the border area next to Syria of ISIS fighters and Kurdish troops. Though officially and effort to destroy ISIS positions near the Turkish borders, the campaign also targeted Kurds and prevented them from linking their eastern enclave with their western one. 

My Comment:
Very interesting story that seems to have flown under the radar for the American MSM. The BBC report was about all I could find on it during a simple google search, though I first found the story on my Twitter feed from the various wire services. American newspapers, websites and tv stations are too busy trying to undermine our president to cover a story on a major US ally possibly ending their commitment to the battle against ISIS. Good to know where their priorities are... 

That being said, this is a fairly big story and one that could go a couple of ways. The Turkish government's statement could be interpreted a few ways. First, Turkey could be withdrawing from Syria completely. Their mission is over and they don't have to worry to much ISIS and the Kurds taking back the cities taken from them since their proxy army of rebels is there to secure them. 

Second, they could be simply ending the offensive operations that have defined their involvement in the war so far. If Turkey doesn't trust their rebel proxies to hold onto their gains in Syria, they might want to stay in and give them some backbone. This would also free up some of those rebel troops so they could participate in the upcoming battles against ISIS, including the liberation of ISIS's capital, Raqqa.

Finally, the ending of Euphrates Shield could just mean that they are renaming their mission and will continue to conduct offensive operations. I know Turkey was pressing pretty hard to participate in the battle for Raqqa, and if some kind of deal was made, it would make sense that this was what was actually happening. 

So which option is it? I really doubt it is the third option. Everything I have heard has been that Turkey will not be participating in the battle for Raqqa. Instead the US is using Arab rebels that we have trained in the lead up to that battle and presumably in the battle itself. And we have deployed heavy support forces including air and artillery support. We really don't need the help of the Turks to liberate Raqqa... 

The other options seem much more likely. Turkey won't be participating in any of the newer battles. They will continue to guard the gains they made this year and will make sure that ISIS and the Kurds won't threaten their border again. Other then that it seems as their role in the war is essentially over for the time being, with defensive operations against ISIS or Kurdish attacks being the only likely exception. Events could change that in the future, obviously, but I doubt it will happen anytime soon. 

Now that Euphrates Shield is over I have to say that I always had mixed feelings Turkey's involvement. I have long been critical of the actions of Turkey's government and their president. Tayyip Erdogan. Indeed, I think he's a paranoid fool, who has aspirations of being an Islamist leader of the Middle East and I have serious questions about his mental health after his recent threats against the West. And I also have to point out that the border operations were more to hurt his Kurdish enemies than ISIS.

On the other hand, it is undeniable that Turkey's Euphrates Shield operation has dramatically shortened the war against ISIS. In addition to the cities and towns the Turks liberated from ISIS, they also cut off their supply lines, making it much harder to get new recruits into ISIS held lands and terrorists out to strike Europe. I don't think we would be talking about what happens after the liberation of Raqqa right now as anything other then a long term goal instead of a medium term one if it wasn't for Turkey cleaning out the border areas. 

Still, I don't like giving Turkey credit for helping to defeat ISIS since they were a major reason they were able to rise in Syria and Iraq in the first place. Turkey left their borders open for a long time, allowing ISIS to get recruits from across the world and even went so far as to by oil from ISIS. Turkey didn't care that ISIS was burning people alive, destroying ancient ruins and generally being horrible, as long as they were fighting the Syrian regime... 

Finally, I have to say that ISIS attacking Turkey was possibly one of their greatest mistakes in their war. Though some have argued that Turkey was going to attack anyways, the terror attacks against Turkish targets gave Turkey the excuse they needed to do what they wanted anyways, which was to attack the Kurds before they consolidated their power. ISIS was in the way of that goal and got eviscerated for it... 

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