Turkey Attacks the Kurds’ Efrin Enclave
The Kurdish PKK, PYD and YPG will probably lose to superiour Turkish firepower
Following days of verbal warnings from Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and intensive diplomatic activity between Ankara, Washington, Moscow, Tehran and Damascus, on Jan. 19 2018 the Turkish military launched Operation Olive Branch — a military offensive in the so-called “Efrin enclave,” part of northwest Syria controlled by the conglomerate of Kurdish militants best known under the designations PKK, PYD and YPG.
The operation commenced with air strikes by Turkish fighter-bombers targeting command and communication facilities, major ammunition depots, observation stations and troop concentrations. Artillery struck other positions. Turkey-backed Syrian insurgents then advanced from Turkey into the enclave.
In the west, the Turks and their Syrian allies attacked in the direction of Semalkan, Rajo and Seyh Hadid. In the north they attacked toward Senkal, Bulbul and Busraya. Following their standard tactics, Kurdish militants withdrew from many of their forward positions in order to avoid their enemy’s superior fire-power, then returned to counterattack in the evening.
The Turkish military operation against the Efrin enclave has been two years in the making. The PKK/PYD/YPG conglomerate is dominated by the PKK, an organization that NATO and the United States consider a terror group. The PKK/PYD/YPG conglomerate considers Turkey to be its primary enemy.
A Popeye 1 strike launched by an F-4E-2020 of the Turkish air force’s 111. Filo against a tunnel used as a weapons depot by the PKK/PYD/YPG conglomerate in the Efrin enclave. Turkish air force release
A secondary reason for the operation seems to be Turkey’s conclusion that the latest Russian and Iranian operations against Turkey-supported Syrian insurgents in northern Hama, Idlib and southern Aleppo provinces violate earlier agreements between Ankara, Moscow and Tehran.
Turkey has another national security interest — to prevent the intake of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria. The latest Iranian and Russian offensives have displaced thousands of refugees in direction of the Turkish border. Wresting control of the Efrin enclave from the PKK/PYD/YPG conglomerate would allow the Turks to harbor additional refugees in that zone instead of inside Turkey.
While considered “pluralist” and “tolerant” by Western media, the PKK/PYD/YPG conglomerate has a violent authoritarian history and clearly intends to rule parts of Syria in the very same fashion.
It’s worth noting that the PKK/PYD/YPG militants controlling the Efrin enclave are not the same Kurdish forces operating under the umbrella of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. They have never received any support from the Pentagon, nor were ever a part of the CENTCOM-controlled command structure of the SDF.
At top — fighters of the the PKK/PYD/YPG conglomerate in Syria. Photo via Facebook. Above — Turkey-backed Syrian insurgents with a YPG flag they captured at a position outside Busraya on the second day of the Operation Olive Branch. Photo via Facebook
“We don’t consider them as part of our defeat-ISIS operations, which is what we are doing there,” a Pentagon source said. “We do not support them. We are not involved with them at all.”
This is hardly surprising, considering that PKK/PYD militants in the Efrin enclave have hardly, if ever, faced Islamic State in combat. The part of Syria they control has remained beyond ISIS’s reach.
On the contrary, the PKK maintains an ages-old alliance with the Syrian regime and with Moscow. Unsurprisingly, it cooperated with both Syria and Russia during the Syrian civil war. For a while, Russia even deployed military observers in the vicinity of the enclave. Those observers withdrew right before the Turkish attack.
The fighting for the Efrin enclave is likely to continue for months, but the probably outcome is a Turkish victory. While the local terrain provides good defensive positions to the PKK/PYD/YPG, the conglomerate’s forces are hopelessly outgunned and outnumbered by the Turkish military and its Syrian allies.