The objectives of operation “Euphrates Shield”

Soner Polat, the Retired Rear Admiral (Upper Half) of the Turkish Navy explanes the objectives of the Turkish military operation in Syria

As we know, any military operation has political objectives. As far as I am concerned, I understand from the statements of key figures that the political objective of operation “Euphrates Shield” is to guarantee the territorial integrity of Syria as well as to create a buffer zone or security belt along the Turkish-Syrian border between Jarabulus and other provinces which are less than 100 km from Turkey. As for the neutral objectives of this operation, I can distinguish between three aspects: tactical, operative, and strategic.

The tactical objective is to clear the area of terrorists from the Islamic State as well as the YPG.

The operative objective is to set up a security belt stretching from the Turkish-Syrian boarder into Syrian mainland at a 10-15 km in depth in order to stop terrorist activities from aiming at Turkish targets. Finally, the strategic objective is to exercise total control over the federal regions like Kobane and others, covering an area of 100 km length and 45 km depth from Turkish borders. In my opinion, these are the political and military objectives of this cross-border Turkish operation.

The next step would be to clear out Manbij and the surrounding area of all terrorists, including YPG affiliates. In the meantime, Turkish troops are between Jarabulus and Manbij, and I believe that they are moving to the South.

The composition of the Free Syrian Army is the most sensitive issue at this moment because we have been very critical about it. I think these troops are somehow controllable, but there is no guarantee for the future. Experience shows that, in the end, these kinds of groups are steered by global forces. Yet, Turkey considers these groups as moderate opponents to the regime, but we know that Syria and the countries supporting it like Russia consider these groups to be terrorist organizations. So, I believe this is the most difficult issue for Turkey to deal with in cooperation with neighboring countries and Russia. I think that in the upcoming stages of the operation in Syria, this issue will be coordinated in detail with regional countries as well as with Russia. This problem should be solved if we want to create a united front against terrorist groups and the countries supporting them.

Quite honestly, I believe that this operation is also against American interests. The United States had no choice but to give a green light to this operation since the US is in a sensitive position. Turkey was very much determined to carry out this operation since too many bombs have exploded and taken many lives. Also, it is widely believed that the US was behind the failed coup d’état. Turkey is slowly but surely moving towards Eurasia, and the Putin-Erdogan meeting alarmed the West. If Turkey remains with the Western world, then the global geopolitical balance is paralyzed. Taking this into account, the Americans will follow through with their current policy until their presidential elections. At this moment, they are trying to get back to the status quo ante. It is very important for Turkey to establish friendly relations with Russia and all its neighbors. Therefore, the West does not want to lose Turkey. That’s why the US hesitated over the Turkish cross-border operation.