While Ankara’s threats of an incursion into north-east Syria have ramped up in recent weeks, particularly following the 13th November bombing in Istanbul that Turkish authorities blamed on Kurdish groups, there are few significant signs of troop movements between positions along the Syrian-Turkish border. Nevertheless, the possibility of a Turkish operation in north Syria remains likely in light of statements by Turkish officials. A Turkish-led incursion into Syria would likely take one of two forms: The first would see a campaign centred around the city of Tel Rifat and its surrounding villages––vulnerable territory for the SDF because it is cut off from other Self-Administration areas meaning the SDF there is reliant on the regime and its allies for supply links. However, Russia’s presence at the nearby Menagh Airbase would likely require a prior diplomatic agreement to in order for such an operation to begin. The second possibility is a campaign targeting the sizeable cities of Manbij and Kobani, which would connect territory already held by Turkey and Turkish-backed groups in the Operation Euphrates Shield and Peace Spring areas. This second scenario also presents ample risks, as it opens up a massive new flank to SDF and pro-regime forces and would involve delicate urban warfare. It would also require a large contribution of trained and organized manpower from pro-Turkish militias of the Syrian National Army (SNA)––a prospect that currently seems remote, considering the in-fighting among these groups that has destabilized north Aleppo province in recent months. Elsewhere in the north-west, regime and Russian, opposition and radical forces continue to clash along frontlines in Aleppo and Idlib provinces.
Attached Map: Military Situation in North-West Syria – 5th December 2022
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