World, Middle East

Syrian opposition braces for Turkish army op in Afrin

Opposition awaits Turkish military operation aimed at smashing PYD/PKK terror presence in region

19.01.2018
Syrian opposition braces for Turkish army op in Afrin A member of the Free Syrian Army checks a machine gun on a bulwark in Idlib, Syria on January 19, 2018. ( Onur Çoban - Anadolu Agency )

By Esref Musa, Burak Karacaoglu and Levent Tok

IDLIB, Syria

Syrian armed opposition groups are on high alert for an anticipated Turkish military operation against the PYD/PKK terrorist group in the northwestern city of Afrin.

Opposition fighters are now standing guard at observation posts set up in nearby de-escalation zones.

On Thursday, the deputy head of the National Coalition of Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces told Anadolu Agency that opposition groups backed Turkish plans to move against the PYD/PKK in northern Syria.

Armed opposition groups in the area -- which occasionally strike PYD/PKK positions in Afrin -- are now preparing for Turkey's expected military offensive, which will be carried out in cooperation with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

On Friday, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli confirmed that the operation would go forward as planned with a view to "neutralizing the terrorist presence" in the region.

The anticipated offensive will likely be waged along the lines of last year's Operation Euphrates Shield, in which the Turkey-backed FSA successfully cleared northern Syria of terrorist elements.

Turkey shares a 911-kilometer (roughly 566-mile) border with Syria, which has only just begun to emerge from a devastating war that began in 2011.

An estimated 65 percent of the Turkey-Syria border is currently controlled by the PYD/PKK.

In 2011, Syria's Assad regime handed Afrin over to the PYD/PKK and there are now between 8,000 and 10,000 terrorists in the area, according to information obtained by Anadolu Agency.

The PYD/PKK is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist group, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.

Since the mid-1980s, the PKK has waged a wide-ranging terror campaign against the Turkish state in which an estimated 40,000 people have been killed.

More than 1,200 security personnel have been martyred since July 2015 alone when the group resumed its armed campaign against the Turkish state following a fragile cease-fire.

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