Jindires first, Afrin city center second
The Turkish Armed Forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have surrounded the city of Afrin in northern Syria with a “safe-zone” strip, which narrows to three kilometers in some places and expands to 10 kilometers in other places
When we take three military observation points into consideration, formed by the Turkish army to the north of Idlib and close to Afrin in October and November 2017 within the scope of the Astana process, we can say that controls are laxer in the south.
Indeed, in the southeast there exists a 40-kilometer corridor that militants of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and members of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) can use to exit Afrin and cross into regime-controlled areas.
Although the Turkish military has completed the initial phase of “Operation Olive Branch,” it is still a long way from achieving its objective of besieging Afrin city center.
The safe-zone corridor that surrounds Afrin is still 20 kilometers from the city center’s west and north. However, two critical points should be dealt with before commencing the planned siege of the city. One of them is the Rajo area northwest of Afrin; but even more important is the town of Jindires, located in southwestern Afrin.
Jindires is of critical importance for the course of the operation. That is because it is located in a strategic point controlling the main road to Afrin from the southwest. Turkish forces have already reached and besieged the southern border of the town, while the west, north and east of the town still remain mostly open.
How the Turkish Armed Forces act in Jindires will determine the course of “Operation Olive Branch.” It is important to see whether the army will first besiege the town from all sides and then start the operation, or enter the town center directly from the south.
The Jindires phase will have noticeable differences to previous phases of “Operation Olive Branch.” The first five weeks of the operation were mainly focused on the countryside, mountainous areas, villages and small residential areas.
However, Jindires is a town that spreads out over a large area, with a two-kilometer distance between the north and south and a 700-meter distance between the west and east. For Syria the town is considered as “large.”
We can, therefore, estimate that the first clashes in a residential area will probably take place in Jindires ahead of the planned siege of Afrin city center. The recent deployment of special operation teams of police and gendarmerie, which are experienced in clashes in inhabited areas, to reinforce military units in Afrin, is part of such a preparation.
Undoubtedly, clashes with terrorist groups in a residential area with civilians carry more risks and difficulties than ones in the countryside.
It is possible to reach Afrin city center via a straight road that begins 20 kilometers from the northeast of Jindires. However, it could take some time to complete the Jindires phase, which means the Afrin city center phase would need to wait.