There are two phone lines in the Hatay headquarters of Operation Olive Branch that allow direct communication with the city of Tal Rifaat located in the south of Afrin.
These lines have been operating 24/7 since the operation started.
On the Hatay side of the line, there are two Turkish military officers who speak Russian like their native language, and on the other side, there are their Russian counterparts who were withdrawn to Tal Rifaat before January 20.
You must have understood why these lines were established.
The purpose is to not accidentally target Russian soldiers, even though they were withdrawn to south, as the operation is going on against PKK/YPG from the air and ground.
Let me provide two more points of information from the operation field:
Let’s remember the videos showing PKK/YPG terrorists in Jindaris being caught “red-handed” and neutralized by drones as they were randomly launching rockets toward Turkey.
Upon watching the footage, it was understood that it was taken from a much closer range than usual.
Then, we learned that there was a reason for this.
Drones, which followed and neutralized the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists, were operated by "descending below the clouds” since the sky was cloudy.
According to the commanders who directed the operation, the drones were descended so low that they were a stone’s throw away.
This is to say, a serious risk was taken.
The second point is about the sensitivity taken while the operation is being carried out.
The PKK/YPG targets in the outskirts of Afrin are shot in accordance with information obtained through field and electronic intelligence.
The information regarding the identified targets is given both to the headquarters in Hatay and to Air Forces Headquarters in Ankara.
In some situations, however, it is difficult to take immediate action.
By some situations, I mean the situations when doubts on whether civilians might be among the PKK/YPG terrorists could not be resolved.
There has been more than one instance when such a situation has occurred and operations in those regions were abandoned.
There is no need to complain about it.
Let Turkey continue to show its distinction regarding its sensitivity about civilians.
The pressure for Turkey to remain where it is now that the borderline is secured
Let’s talk about possible developments that can be encountered in the Afrin operation from now on.
We know that the entire borderline was secured as of Monday.
Troops of the Turkish Armed Forces and the Free Syrian Army who started the offensive at seven fronts starting from January 20 merged all these fronts at the beginning of the week, and the connection between Afrin’s countryside and Turkish borders was severed.
When looked at from the perspective of Ankara, this is only one part of the operation.
We say this because we have received the same confirmation many times from the authorities in Ankara that Afrin’s city center is within the operation’s scope.
Let’s add this too:
Even with its current situation, the distance that Operation Olive Branch has covered is very significant since it has secured Turkey’s border.
We have seen signs putting pressure on Turkey saying, “Do not advance any further from here.” I am talking about pressure implying that “You have secured your borders so do not go any further.”
For example, the United Nations Security Council declared a ceasefire for 30 days in Syria with the resolution 2401 adopted last Saturday.
Now a pressure that says “This binds you as well” is being put on Turkey.
Nauert, the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, who gave the impression that the U.S. voted “yes” to this resolution to stop Turkey in Afrin, not for the big tragedy happening in Eastern Ghouta, said “I would encourage Turkey to go back and read this resolution.”
As a response to this call, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said “It is unfounded and it shows that they are not able to understand the focus of the resolution, or they want to distort it.”
Where do the Russians stand?
A confusing statement was given by Russia yesterday.
Speaking in Geneva, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, “It is of critical significance that all actors in Syria should abide by the UN’s ceasefire resolution across the country.”
Can we interpret Lavrov’s statement as the same with the words of the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State?
The U.S. and Russia can sometimes conduct secret agreements regarding Syria without implicating anyone leads to more confusion regarding who can be trusted and to what extent.
Apart from the disputes about the UN Security Council’s resolution, I personally think that the pressure on Turkey to “not go further down” will increase in the upcoming process.
The fact that the words “We understand your concerns about your border security” coming from the U.S. is always followed by, “But your operation in Afrin distracts the YPG” gives an idea about where Washington stands.
Actually, attention should be paid to what the Russians will say.
We have seen the same pressure from the U.S. saying, “Do not advance than 20 kilometers” during the Operation Euphrates Shield. However, Turkey entered al-Bab cooperating with Russia and showed that it did not surrender to those pressures.
What I am saying is that if the agreement about Afrin reached with Moscow includes Afrin’s city center too, then this song has not ended yet.
However, if Russians join the choir singing “Turkey should not go further down,” then we can estimate that the pressure to stop Turkey here will increasingly continue in the upcoming days.