Erdogan Signals New Phases In Syria Campaign

Only days after Turkey announced the end of its military campaign in Syria, its president signaled new fronts against terrorist groups, a move that would usher in a prolonged military presence in northern Syria.

Palpable ambivalence over Turkey’s military motives in Syria is bound to linger after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that Turkey would extend its military operations to target other terrorist organizations in the region with the upcoming spring.

His vow comes only a week after the National Security Council (MGK) announced the end of Turkey’s military campaign in northern Syria.

In late August last year, Turkey launched Euphrates Shield operation with the clear objective of pushback against Islamic State which then held control of 55-mile, southern side of the Turkish-Syrian border, clearing Jerabulus and al-Bab of ISIS elements.

The capture of al-Bab marked the final phase of the campaign last month and Turkish military chief Gen. Hulusi Akar told media that the Euphrates Shield was successfully completed. His remarks were later confirmed by MGK decision.

The Turkish military, however, left room for maneuvering last week by a statement in which it said it would continue operations to protest Turkey’s national security, and “prevent any unwanted formation.” Without naming any target or group, the statement indeed pointed to aspiration of Syrian Kurds to form a separate political entity in northern Syria, an issue that Turkey regards as an existential threat to its security and Syria policy.

Speaking to his loyal constituency in a Black Sea province on Monday, President Erdogan said there would be new operations against terrorist groups.

“We are making preparations for new operations to crack down on terrorist organizations in other regions … We have very good surprises for PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party], YPG [People’s Protection Units], Daesh and FETO [Fethullah Terrorist Organization],” Mr. Erdogan said in a political campaign.

He said it would be a winter for terrorists, while a celebration and feast for Turkish people in the upcoming months.

At least 71 Turkish soldiers were killed during Euphrates Shield campaign.

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