Securing critical positions next to Turkey’s border, Turkish Armed Forces and their allies were quick to gain the upper hand in several YPG-occupied areas of northern Syria.
Much to the surprise of many security experts, Turkey's military operation resulted in the quick takeover of key border cities occupied by the YPG/PKK terror group in northern Syria.
Soon after the launch of the military operation, the US-trained YPG's defence lines collapsed, much faster than expected, especially in places such as Tal Abyad and Ras al Ain.
SDF is a misnomer for the YPG, a Syrian affiliate of the PKK, which has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the US, EU and Turkey. The US created the SDF in 2014 on the pretext of fighting Daesh. Aware of the terror group's tainted origins, Washington named it as SDF only to justify to the world that it wasn't fighting one terror group with another. But Ankara has always objected to the move and over time relations between the US and Turkey faced an overwhelming strain.
Now Turkey argues that its cross-border operation was aimed at fixing the wrongs of the US, caused when it sided with a terror group. The plan materialised after the US President Donald Trump had a telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week.
“Turkey has moved incredibly swiftly,” BBC's Orla Guerin reported from Turkey’s Akcakale, a province braving the YPG/PKK's rocket attacks.
Across Akcakale, Turkey has already liberated Tal Abyad, a mostly Arab-populated town. Turkey and the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army also took over Ras al Ain, a crucial border town, in a matter of several days.
Turkish forces were quick to reach the strategic M4 highway, controlling parts of it and setting up checkpoints across the road. Ankara’s successful operation has also led Washington to pull back its forces, changing the course of the eight-year Syrian war.
“As of this morning [Tuesday], we have liberated an area of around 1,000 square kilometres from the occupation of the separatist terror group,” Erdogan said.
Several Western media outlets lamented “the rapid deterioration of both the SDF’s and the United States’ ability to contain swifter-than-expected Turkish advances”.
During previous interviews, Syrian Kurdish sources told TRT World that the YPG/PKK rule in northern Syria is shaky and could collapse at any given point.
Many of the YPG-held territories in northern Syria were taken by the group after a secret pact with the Assad regime back in 2012.
Under the deal, Assad regime forces made a tactical withdrawal from those areas, leaving the YPG/PKK as an authoritative force.
In Turkey’s previous operation, Operation Olive Branch, in early 2018, Turkish-backed Syrian forces entered the city centre of Afrin without facing a strong resistance from the YPG/PKK, with forces reportedly fleeing the city to the regime-controlled parts of Syria.
"When the zone from Manbij to Iraq that is 350km [is cleared] when we could establish a safe zone, this operation will be over. But until that point, no power can stop us," Erdogan declared.
Washington and Europeans have called for a ceasefire, but Ankara flatly rejected it on the grounds that it can not agree a ceasefire with a terrorist organisation.
Ankara aims to secure a territory stretching nearly 500 kilometres from Ayn al Arab to Hasaka with a depth of 30-35 km across northern Syria.