Five years into the Syrian Civil War and two years after the rise of ISIS, Turkish troops finally entered the fight on August 24th, with Operation Euphrates Shield.
Turkish military officials say their artillery and rocket launchers fired 224 rounds at 63 targets in two hours. Turkish Air Force planes also struck targets in the ISIS-held town of Jarablus, which Turkish troops captured later that day.
It was ISIS’ last stronghold along the Turkish border.
With tanks, warplanes, and special operations forces, Turkey also seeks to stem the territory and influence captured by the Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria. American air strikes are assisting Turkish forces.
The operation aims to clear the Turkish-Syrian border of “terrorist groups” to increase border security. Unfortunately, the Turkish government considers the Kurdish YPG, the most effective force fighting ISIS in Syria, a relative to a terrorist group – the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK. Turkey has been fighting the PKK for 30 years.
The 62-mile border area targeted by the Turks puts the NATO ally and its Syrian rebel forces on a collision course with U.S.- backed Kurdish and Arab fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces. Skirmishes between the two groups have already started south of the town of Manbij, just 21 miles from Jarablus.
Turkey gave the Kurdish fighters who captured Manbij from the Islamic State a week to leave the town and retreat East of the Euphrates River. The United States is backing its Turkish ally on the issue, and the Kurds are complying.
More than 300 Kurdish and Arab-allied fighters died taking Manbij from ISIS, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Twitter account for the official spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led Coalition against the Islamic State said the move was to prepare for the eventual liberation of Raqqa, the de facto ISIS capital.
The Syrian Democratic Forces have moved east across the Euphrates to prepare for the eventual liberation of Raqqa, Syria #defeatdaesh
— OIR Spokesperson (@OIRSpox) August 25, 2016
Soon after the YPG withdrew past the river, Turkish media reported Turkish artillery firing on YPG forces south of Jarablus.