Obviously, the liberation of the city was not problematic for the Turkish military; according to the Turkish Defense Ministry, only one FSA fighter has been killed during the “Euphrates Shield” operation. The Syrian civil war has been raging for over five years, and there are still no winners in sight. On the contrary – new actors are becoming involved in the conflict day by day – this week the Turkish army also joined the fray, by intervening in the Syrian city of Jarablus to support Free Syrian Army militants and fight against Islamic State (ISIS).
Jarablus is a vital supply line for ISIS and one of its last remaining strongholds on the border. Every actor in the Jarablus operation is fighting for its own reasons. Turkey certainly sought to weaken ISIS, which has shelled Turkish territory and carried out a series of terrorist attacks – including a suicide bombing in the southern city of Gaziantep just last weekend which killed 54 people at a wedding.
Obviously, the liberation of the city was not problematic for the Turkish military; according to the Turkish Defense Ministry, only one FSA fighter has been killed during the “Euphrates Shield” operation. Prior to the incursion into Syria, Turkey was part of the international anti-terrorism coalition and its presence in Syria was limited to fighter jets and air raids. With Turkey’s unexpected intervention, the international anti-terrorist coalition members may finally have a professional ally against the radical Islamist organizations.
Undoubtedly, the seizure of Jarablus will shape the war against ISIS to the West’s advantage. The military campaign in itself can be perceived as opening a new era in US-Turkish cooperation. Even though Ankara has not clarified its motives in entering Syria, it is no secret that the main source of concern for Turkey is the rising influence of the US-backed Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
A US-backed alliance between the Kurdish militant groups and some Syrian Arabs called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been advancing and taking over strategic areas from various armed Islamist groups. It scored a success by driving ISIS militants out of the town of Manbij this month. Most probably the liberation of Manbij will not be the last objective of the Kurds, as simultaneously they are trying to recapture the town of Azaz (near the Turkish border), which is supposed to be a part of the “buffer zone” in Northern Syria.
So what does Ankara want to achieve? Firstly, Turkey aims to degrade ISIS in this part of Syria and make sure that it is no longer able to pose a real threat to its national security. Beyond that, Turkey seeks to strengthen its own influence in this part of Syria.