first published on February 21, 2018 by Will
The Turkish military struck a convoy of pro-Assad Syrian forces as they crossed into Afrin to support YPG forces against Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch.
The pro-Assad forces were not actual Syrian troops, but units of Alawite militiamen that have been loyally fighting for Assad against Sunni rebel groups in the several year war. The Syrian government and the Kurdish YPG were recently in talks regarding the actual Syrian military entering Afrin to ward off Turkey and somewhat regaining control of Syrian territory. Officially, no such agreement has been reached, hence the militiamen. Additionally, the Turkey claimed that they received Russia’s promise that they would not allow Syrian troops to be deployed into Afrin.
Although the Alawite militias are working directly for Syrian President Assad, Turkish President Erdogan called them “terrorists.” He went on to say, “Unfortunately, these kind of terror organizations take wrong steps with the decisions they take. It is not possible for us to allow this. They will pay a heavy price.”
Turkey also claimed that their artillery forced the convoy to turn back, although Kurdish forces disputed the claiming that the convoy of reinforcements arrived. However, the additional personnel isn’t likely to make a drastic change in the situation on the ground. The pro-Assad militias are likely of the same groups that reinforced the YPG against ISIS near Tal Rafhat and al Bab in 2015.