Ankara, Beirut – Days after the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces launched an offensive to free the ISIS stronghold in Syria’s north, Raqqa, many Kurdish senior officials expected that the area would be annexed to Kurdish territory post liberation.
The statements increased the anxiety of many Syrian opposition members—more so, the U.S. air support of Kurdish fighting militias had stepped up the probability of Washington seeking an independent Kurdish state or the realization of a federal Syria.
Ankara had received binding promises on Operation Euphrates Shield being carried thoroughly, and that the annexation of Jarabulus to borderline town of Afrin, Syria would be stopped, diplomatic sources told Ashasrq Al-Awast.
The Turkish military intervention in Syria, Operation Euphrates Shield, is an ongoing cross-border effort by the Turkish military and allied groups in the Syrian Civil War. Operations are ongoing in the region between the Euphrates river to the east and the opposition-held area around Azaz to the west.
A U.S.-Russian approval on Turkey’s plans for establishing a safe zone between Jarablus and Azaz, 45 kilometers deep into Syrian terrain, is well underway, sources said.
A safe zone will aid in encouraging the safe return of refugees to their homes.
Turkey’s army continued to reinforce its border posts with each of Iraq and Syria–the current General Chief of Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces had reportedly paid a visit to Iraqi border grounds.
Minister of National Defense Fikri Isik said that the Turkish army will make any advance necessary to protect national security.
Turkey fears that confrontations with hardline terror group ISIS will lead to sectarian war that will have the region descend to chaos. All military measures being taken to push back SDF Kurdish forces from entering Syria’s Raqqa are precautionary steps to prevent ethnic strife.
More so, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, Iraqi forces and a Kurdish-Arab militia alliance made an advance on Mosul aimed at driving ISIS from its last major Iraq bastion.
The paralleled SDF move towards Raqqa, Syria was hampered by a sandstorm that had hit the desert province.
“The situation is dangerous today because there is no visibility due to a desert sandstorm,” an SDF commander told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We fear that ISIS will take advantage of this to move in and launch a counter-attack,” he said.
Speaking in Ain Issa, the main staging point for the operation some 50 kilometers north of Raqqa, the commander said the sandstorm was also impeding visibility for coalition warplanes.
The SDF launched the offensive on Saturday and has been pushing south from areas near the Turkish border towards Raqqa.
The commander said SDF forces advancing south from Ain Issa and Suluk were close to converging at a position some 30 kilometers from Raqqa.
“We have been able to cover a third of the distance that separated us from Raqqa,” SDF spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed said, adding that 15 villages and hamlets had been taken.