Turkish troops, drones in Syria for monitoring mission
Uğur Ergan – ANKARA
Turkish military units and drones have been carrying out surveillance efforts in Idlib as part of the operation in Syria’s largely jihadist-controlled northwestern province.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have been trying to determine 14 different surveillance points where Turkish soldiers will be deployed, while unmanned drones have been following works on the ground.
Reconnaissance teams from the special forces started their initial efforts in the border area between Idlib and Afrin, and spots deemed to “pose dangers” are reportedly being marked in a way only known to the Turkish Special Forces.
There are no permanent Turkish military units stationed inside Syrian soil but teams have been crossing the border according to the mission.
Idlib is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), spearheaded by a former al-Qaeda affiliate that changed its name last year from the Nusra Front.
Afrin, meanwhile, is under the control of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers to be a terrorist organization due to its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Special forces units scouting the area have been giving priority to geographical conditions when carrying out efforts to check whether field conditions are suitable for Turkish soldiers to cross the border.
Within the aforementioned framework, the units are evaluating the possible locations of traps and spots safe for crossing the border.
They have also been determining the points suitable for making surveillance from hills with regard to geographical conditions.
Reconnaissance teams are in close contact with the local forces and the people in the area during their work.
When asked about the reconnaissance period, officials told daily Hürriyet that it depends on the area’s conditions and said results were obtained from contact established with locals.
“Scouting the area may take couple of days or couple of weeks,” one official whose identity was not disclosed told Hürriyet on Oct. 11.
After the teams complete their reconnaissance efforts, they will prepare a report regarding the route to be used when crossing the border, which will be followed in the “subsequent operation.” Turkish soldiers will therefore begin deploying to the areas determined by scouting units after crossing into Idlib from its west.
While the unit was carrying out reconnaissance works on the ground, an unmanned Turkish drone on Oct. 10 flew over an area that encircles YPG-held Afrin.
The drone was reportedly gathering information about whether the YPG is planning an attack on Azaz in addition to Idlib.
Moreover, military activity in the Reyhanlı district of the southern border province of Hatay continued on Oct. 11.
Armored personnel carriers and many other military vehicles have reached Reyhanlı and have been transferred to border units where they will be deployed.
Containers have also been sent to the military posts near the border line in order for the Turkish soldiers’ military needs to be met.
The Idlib operation is part of efforts by Turkey, along with Russia and Iran, to set up the zone in line with accords in Astana peace talks aimed at ending the Syrian war. They agreed on four such ceasefire zones in Syria as a prelude to negotiations.
HTS is not party to the deal for the safe zone in the province, one of four such “de-escalation” zones nationwide. Ousting HTS forces from the area will therefore be needed in order to allow the arrival of Iranian, Russian and Turkish forces to implement a de-escalation zone.
Meanwhile, residents of the Oğulpınar village in Reyhanlı, which is among the locations where tanks and armored vehicles are deployed, marched in support of Turkish soldiers on Oct. 10. Turkish flags were hung on houses, the village school mosque, while local people chanted slogans in support of the soldiers.
“We organized this march to show that we are on the side of our army,” Oğulpınar village head Hasan Şanverdi told Hürriyet.
Soldiers greeted the villagers towards the end of the march, which was followed by locals handing Turkish flags to security forces.