Turkey sends military reinforcements to Syria as fight for al-Bab rages


Turkish army forces on Syrian border. File photo

ARA News

Rihanli – Turkey sent on Sunday new military reinforcements to its military forces and allied rebel groups in northern Syria.

The Turkish support comes as its army forces and allied Syrian rebels of the Euphrates Shield Brigades continued their military operations against Islamic State’s (ISIS) militants near the city of al-Bab.

According to Turkish officials, the convoy left Istanbul in the evening on Sunday and headed towards the southern border to enter Syria.

The reinforcement convoy included “10 tanks, 8 armoured vehicles, heavy machine guns and a large deal of ammunition,” the Turkish Army Central Command said.

“The new military reinforcements are aimed at intensifying counter-terrorism efforts on the Syrian-Turkish border,” it said.

Turkey’s military said that eliminating terrorism in northern Syria means securing Turkey’s southern borderline.

On August 24, the Turkish Army and allied rebels in Syria launched the so-called Euphrates Shield Operations. On the same day, Turkey announced the “liberation” of Jarablus city from ISIS.

However, according to local activists, the Turkish army forces and allied rebel groups have taken Jarablus without any resistance from ISIS.

“Turkey-backed rebels and the Turkish army captured the city of Jarablus from ISIS without a fight, which confirms that there are undeclared agreements between Turkey and ISIS,” Ali Battal, member of the Syrian National Democratic Union, told ARA News at the time.

Subsequent to the Turkish advance in Jarablus, clashes erupted between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the pro-Turkey factions.

“After invading Jarablus city, Turkey tries to cut off the YPG-SDF supply routes in northern Syria and prevent those forces from eliminating ISIS terrorists,” Battal said.

In September, Turkey sent large military reinforcements to Syria in support of its forces and allies. They recently started closing in on al-Bab city in northern Aleppo Governorate.

“Turkish troops to remain in Syria for as long as it takes to eradicate terrorists on its southern border,” the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a statement in early September.

“We will continue our operations [in Syria] until we fully guarantee security of life and property for our citizens and the security of our border. We will continue until Daesh [ISIS] and other terrorist elements are taken out,” the Turkish PM said.

Ali Özkök, a Turkish Middle East analyst, told ARA News that the Turkish-led offensive will not stop in al-Bab. “The Euphrates Shield Brigades have started huge training programs…once the city was secured, rebels could attack the Kurdish-led SDF, ISIS-held Tabqa or advance south towards Raqqa and Til Rifaat.” Özkök said.

Michael Stephens, director of the Royal United Services Institute–Qatar, stressed that the battle for al-Bab could endanger the SDF-led Raqqa operation. “While al-Bab opens up options for Turkey, it shuts down options for the [Syrian Defense Forces] and puts the Raqqa operation in jeopardy,” Stephens told ARA News.

According to analysts, the immediate goal of the Turkey-backed rebels is to preempt Kurdish territorial ambitious by capturing the ISIS-held areas between Efrin and Manbij. Their latter goal is to open a new front against the Syrian Army and the Shia militias in Aleppo. These goals are irreconcilable with the widely shared Kurdish desire to establish territorial contiguity in Rojava.

Reporting by: Jan Nasro | Source: ARA News

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