first published on March 17, 2018 by Sean
Turkish backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels continue their offensive in Kurdish held Afrin province. Amidst tough Kurdish resistance, the rebels are now closing in on the city of Afrin from two directions and appear poised to seize a majority of the province.
The Turkish operation beginning in January and ominously dubbed “Olive Branch” allegedly aimed to seize a buffer territory between the border region of Turkey and Syria. Providing heavy artillery and air-support while simultaneously supplying multiple FSA factions with arms and equipment, the campaign originally got off to a slow start. Stiff resistance led by Kurdish Peoples Protection Unit (YPG) militias in the area were able to bog down and slow Turkish advances – now dragging the bloody operation into its third month.
However, the firepower and logistical support of NATO’s second largest military may be finally taking its toll on the YPG defenders. The overstretched Kurds are fighting on multiple fronts around Syria and Iraq and are now confronted with well supplied FSA rebels and Turkish heavy weapons. Though the Turkish gains were slow in the opening weeks, the pace of conquest in the province appears to have hastened recently and they are closing in on the city of Afrin.
Exploiting recently captured territory from opposite directions, the Turks now threaten to sever a narrow corridor near Afrin that connects the remaining Kurdish held areas. The Turks have begun shelling the city of Afrin before the presumed ground assault and are purportedly allowing civilians to flee the region.
The video below is from one of the Turkish supported FSA factions currently fighting in the Afrin countryside. Sporting armored vehicles and heavy machine guns, they advance through lightly forested terrain and vast orchard’s. They meet YPG resistance several times throughout the clip, but it appears more like rear-guard or delaying harassment fire.
While the Kurds are certainly under pressure in Afrin, resistance has not yet collapsed, and the region will likely continue to be a flashpoint as Syria is carved up amongst the various competing factions.