January 25, 2018

Afrin: The “Olive Branch” Is Losing Its Pace

Vadym Volokhov

January 23, 2018, the third day of the “Olive Branch” ground operation was completed.

From different sources there are reports of local battles and clashes. Groups of fighters of the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) with the support of tanks and aviation are moving deep into the canton of Afrin very slowly. The “lightning operation” is skidding. Probably the Command of the Turkish Army is afraid of great losses, and the FSA units have low combat efficiency, despite the new weapons from the Turkish arsenals.

It is known that the speed and achievement of maximum results in a minimal time is one of the main rules of modern warfare. The “Olive Branch” does not look like that. It is rather a struggle not for the result, but for a more favorable position in future negotiations.

As of January 23, according to the Anadolu agency, the allied troops seized 15 villages and “key positions” on the territory of the canton of Afrin. Units of ground troops launched an offensive against Afrin from the east, from the district of A'zaz. There are reports of the death of a Turkish soldier in an area south-east of the Turkish city of Gulbaba in the Kilis province.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has provided information on 22 civilians killed during Turkish strikes. Besides, they released information on the deaths of 35 Turkish military servicemen and 19 fighters from the FSA units and about 30 fighters from Kurdish formations. Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu has denied this information and called it an groundless lie.

The Syrian side reports on 106 deaths, 23 of them civilians, 38 “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) fighters, 2 Turkish soldiers and 43 fighters from the pro-Turkish FSA. Nearly 15 civilians were injured and killed in the city of Jandairis, southwest of Afrin.

Sad as it might be, but in a big political game with hypertrophied ambitions and betrayal, people not involved are killed on every turn.

And so, by the end of the third day, the Turkish troops and their allies are slowly moving deep into the Syrian territory, while pro-Russian mercenaries, with the support of the Syrian army, are hurrying to occupy their part of the “Idlib de-escalation zone”. Pro-Iranian formations have actually occupied the entire territory that they were assigned to in the division of Syria and are breaking off the offensive.

One can predict that the most interesting thing will happen next. When all players take “their” territories, a new division of the foreign country will begin. Of all the players, Russia has the weakest military and political positions. Therefore unforeseen and unclear associations and unions will inevitably arise.