It’s damned difficult to figure out what’s happening with Operation Olive Branch since both, or I should say all, sides are expending considerable energy in controlling the narrative. In other words we are wading through a pond of bullshit.
The Turks and their FSA allies appear to have made slow progress into Afrin over the last few days. The YPG has also been able to launch a few successful counterattacks, but the weight of Turkish air and artillery strikes will inevitably take its toll. One YPG action I found significant was an attack at Daret Izza in the southwest corner of Afrin Canton. This is close to the a main Turkish entry point into Idlib Canton and the location of a Turkish military base. Time will tell if this is a forlorn hope or not.
The most significant development is the widening of the Turkish attacks beyond Afrin to the rest of the Turkish-Rojava border. Several of these artillery and air strikes are quite close to the CJTF-OIR bases near Qamishli and Kobani. Turkish troops and armor are also massing along this border. My guess is that Turkey’s ambition extends far beyond Afrin. Militarily that makes sense, but it definitely increases the pucker factor among all the players. All this while the CENTCOM Commander, General Votel, was visiting Raqqa telling the world the US was going to be in Syria for the forseeable future. Well, what are you going to do now, Ranger?
Here’s a few excerpts from the coverage of the developing situation.
On January 22, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) opened a new front against Kurdish militias east of Afrin and captured Birsaya Mount. This mount overlooks the town of Sharanli and the northeastern flank of Afrin. However, by the evening Turkey-led forces retreated from it after the FSA had abandoned its positions due to a YPG counter-attack.
On January 23, the TAF and the FSA launched another advance on Birsaya Mount. If they are able to secure it, Turkish forces will likely advance on Sharanli and then make an attempt to link with its positions in Ash Shaykh Khurus where they had achieved notable progress.
According to Turkish media, 6,400 service members are involved in Ankara’s military operation in Afrin. (SouthFront)
BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:30 A.M.) [23 Jan] – Minutes ago, the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) launched a surprise assault on the rebel stronghold of Daret ‘Izza in west Aleppo.
According to a local report from Aleppo, the YPG forces attacked Daret ‘Izza from its western axis, capturing a number of points near the Sama’an Castle. Intense clashes are still ongoing at the moment, as the YPG remains on the offensive in Daret ‘Izza.
The YPG offensive at Daret ‘Izza comes just hours after the Turkish-led Euphrates Shield forces attempted to capture the historical Mount Simeon, which is located northwest of the rebel stronghold. (Al Masdar News)
BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:20 A.M.) [24 Jan] – The Turkish Army and their rebel allies launched another big assault in the Afrin Canton, Tuesday, targeting the northern part of this important region in northern Aleppo. According to pro-opposition media, the Turkish Army and their allies began the day by recapturing the town of Adamanli and its surrounding hilltops.
Following the capture of Adamanli, the Turkish Army and their allies managed to capture town of ‘Umar Ushagi near the Rajou axis in the northern part of the Afrin Canton. The Turkish Armed Forces would end the day by recapturing the strategic mountaintop of Jabal Barsaya after a fierce battle with the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG). (Al Masdar News)