Three pieces of evidence showing the YPG ran away at the last minute
The popular notion when the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) started “Operation Olive Branch” was that urban combat would be next in line after the army took over the countryside. However, that did not happen. In a few days, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants fled Afrin.
Intelligence in hand showed that the PKK and its Syrian offshoot People’s Protection Units (YPG) had more than 10,000 armed elements including those deployed from Manbij. Drones had spotted trenches and barriers were set up around the city center.
The TSK had its eyes on the operation. The experienced special gendarmerie and police forces along with the TSK’s special forces units had prepared for urban warfare.
Their only and biggest concern was that civilians would be harmed. That’s why when the city was encircled, it had kept a corridor in the south of Afrin, expecting the civilians to leave.
The general attitude of the Arab population in Afrin and especially of the young locals, demonstrated support for “Operation Olive Branch.”
On March 15, the YPG fled, blending in with the civilians.
The information sheets the TSK airdropped in Afrin aimed to direct the civilians to safe spaces. The notes reached the civilians and convoys en route to Aleppo and Azez were formed. Although the YPG militants attempted to block the civilians from leaving at first, they could not succeed. The TSK destroyed the roadside barricades with drones and the Turkish Air Force.
Starting on Tuesday, March 13, intelligence obtained showed the ringleaders of the network had begun to leave Afrin.
On March 14, it was observed that the organization’s militants were also running. In case the TSK would shoot at them, they blended in with the civilian convoys and headed towards Tal-Rifat and Aleppo. On the night of March 15, more were running.
The militants were among the 50,000 the United Nations had declared fled Afrin.
There are three pieces of concrete evidence showing they ran away in panic. The various pieces of evidence show the terror network decided to flee Afrin last minute, as the TSK advanced rapidly from the countryside to the city center.
For example, just a week ago, they were deploying arms and militants to Afrin.
Another one is that the tunnels, barricades and bases meant for urban warfare were prepared after the operation began.
The most important one, though, is how they left tons of ammunition provided by the United States and Russia back in Afrin.
An article published in the Guardian basically said the militants had left the city, having understood they could not withstand Turkey’s combat force. This notion was actually shared by all the foreign diplomats I have spoken to.
Another notion was the United States saw Ankara’s determination and the TSK’s operational capacity. The militants would be moved from Manbij and the east of Euphrates to Afrin once the urban combat took off. This would put the U.S. in a tough position in its mission to use the YPG against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).
That is why the U.S. commanders on the ground encouraged the militant group to leave Afrin and move to Manbij and the east of Euphrates.
There were many European and U.S. citizens among those deployed to Afrin from the east of the Euphrates. All were sent to the battlefronts. From the United Kingdom alone, only eight YPG militants were killed. The number of western citizens killed in Afrin is quite high. This tells us that the network is aiming to raise awareness and making propaganda using western elements.
The organization has turned the situation into propaganda, arguing they ran from Afrin because had they stayed, civilians would be harmed.
They have even begun using civilians for propaganda, whom they had initially blocked from leaving Afrin by saying “Operation Olive Branch has removed the locals from their homes.”
Statements made by the International Red Crescent, the United Nations and the U.S. yesterday show the organization’s propaganda had met its purpose in the West, despite the Turkish Red Crescent and Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority’s (AFAD) rapid response to the humanitarian needs of the civilians, including food and shelter.
In the same Guardian article, it was mentioned that the militant organization is preparing to carry out hit-and-run kind of terror attacks against the TSK and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces in Afrin. The rocket attack and the hand grenade attack in central Afrin show proof of that.
Sinjar before Manbij?
Turkish diplomacy has some serious work to do since it has taken control over Afrin in 55 days, as it holds the balance between the U.S. and Russia.
On March 19, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signaled that the most significant developments could be made in Sinjar, which bridges Qandil in northern Iraq and Syria, not Manbij, following the process after Afrin.