Erdogan Celebrates Capturing of Afrin: What Does It Mean to Him?

Photo: Foreign Policy

The Turkish Armed Forces and the militants of the Free Syrian Army established control over the Syrian Kurdish-populated city of Afrin as a result of two-month military operations. This was announced on March 18 by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It is noted that now the Turkish troops and their allies are cleaning the streets of the city from the fighters of the Kurdish self-defense groups, which Ankara considers as terrorists, and the West as allies.

However, it should be noted that, despite the Kurdish alliance with the West, Turkey’s taking of Afrin, as well as military actions against the Kurds, did not receive the proper response from the international community. The latter also keeps silent about the humanitarian aspect of the military actions: according to local activists, as a result of the Turkish operation, 280 civilians were killed, and more than 150,000 people left Afrin in the last days.

It should be noted that by capturing Afrin Erdogan achieved two goals. First, as promised, there are no territories controlled by the Kurds in the Syrian border areas with Turkey. Second, with the victory over the “centuries-old enemy of the Turkish people,” Erdogan gets big dividends from domestic politics.

With such international indifference and the support of his own society, Erdogan is unlikely to be satisfied with only Afrin, the “liberation” of which was the goal of the military operation called “Olive Branch”, launched on January 20. Apparently, Erdogan will try to take Manbij which is also controlled by the Kurds. Taking into account the presence of US troops here, Erdogan may not take such active steps in order to avoid direct confrontation with the United States, but he will try to “persuade” Americans to control Manbij without Kurds.

As for the Kurds, it should be noted that the Turkish control over Afrin will be quite difficult, considering that the population of Afrin is mostly Kurds, and they perceive Turkey as an aggressor. Kurdish forces have already said that the armed forces of Turkey and their mercenaries are expecting a guerrilla nightmare in Afrin, and that they are going to return the city.