One year since Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch in Syria

  • 20 Jan 2019

Today marks the one year anniversary of Turkey's Operation Olive Branch aimed to clear terrorists affiliated with the PKK from the Afrin region.

In this March 24, 2018 photo, Turkish soldiers atop a tank pose for pictures with Syrian children holding a Turkish flag in the northwestern city of Afrin, Syria. ( AP )

It's been a year since Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to drive the YPG and Daesh terror groups from Afrin in northern Syria.

On January 20, 2018, Turkey, in cooperation with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), launched Operation Olive Branch with the stated aim of eliminating the PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorist presence in Syria’s northern Afrin district.

The PYD/PKK has enjoyed a significant presence in Afrin, which lies close to the Turkish border since mid-2012, when Syrian regime forces withdrew from the area without a fight.

The operation lasted 58 days and eventually cleared the YPG from the city. 

Ankara says the PKK terror group's Syrian branches, the YPG and PYD were using tunnels and local collaborators to infiltrate Turkey.

Fight against Daesh

Turkey first recognised Daesh as a terrorist organisation more than five years ago and promised to continue its fight against Daesh even after the US withdraws from Syria. 

Daesh has also posed a security threat within Turkey's borders. 

At least 290 people were killed and more than 1,300 other people were injured in at least eight different Daesh attacks, according to reports.

Ankara says its main goal is to stop the flow of Daesh fighters from travelling between Turkey and Syria. 

As a part of those operations Turkey has arrested more than 4,000 people accused of being Daesh members. 

Around 61,000 foreign nationals are banned from entering Turkey because of suspected links to Daesh. About 1,000 others accused of links to the group are awaiting deportation.

TRT World's Mohsin Mughal has more about the planned operation.

Life in Afrin 

Lieutenant Commander Nadide Sebnem Aktop said the Turkish army neutralised at least 3,000 Daesh terrorists in its Operation Euphrates Shield and aided in the return of some 300,000 Syrians to Syria.

Turkey has conducted two successful cross-border operations into Syria since 2016, Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch, both meant to eradicate the presence of PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists near Turkey’s borders.

TRT World's Yasin Eken has more from Afrin.

Turkey-US relations

Turkey has long objected to the US giving support and weapons to the YPG/PYD, arguing that using one terrorist group to fight another makes no sense.

There has been friction between Ankara and Washington over the upcoming Turkish counter-terrorist operation against the YPG/PYD amid the withdrawal of US forces from Syria.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people. 

TRT World spoke to Ragip Soylu, Turkey's Correspondent for the Middle East Eye.