What are Turkey's plans for Afrin?

Roughly two months after the start of their military operations Turkish troops and allied rebels have captured the northern Syrian city of Afrin. The Kurdish YPG militia have retreated and tens of thousands have fled the city. Turkey has announced that it will now begin reconstruction work. Commentators shed light on Turkey's plans - and interests.

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Daily Sabah (TR) /

Afrin is just the beginning

After the capture of Afrin Ankara is now preparing several strategic measures, Daily Sabah explains:

“Meanwhile, the first steps of restructuring efforts have already been taken. A few days ago, the Afrin Liberation Congress convened in Turkey's southeastern province of Gaziantep in which 100 notable people in exile from Afrin elected the local council. The work will start in the city soon. Now we will see two simultaneous efforts - rebuilding the destruction in Afrin as we have seen in al-Bab, and Turkey's new moves against the YPG threat. As President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan often says, the focus now must be on PKK targets in Sinjar [in Iraq] and the YPG in Manbij [in Syria].”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

Test area for the Turkish arms industry

The war in Syria serves above all economic interests, Naftemporiki comments:

“Syria is an opportune test area. The Russian army, for example, has deployed 215 new weapons systems there. ... And the Turkish prime minister stressed on January 21 that 75 percent of the weapons and munition used in Syria were produced in Turkey. 'Operation Olive Branch' was a fantastic opportunity for the Turkish arms industry. It was accompanied by the presidential proudness of the Bayraktar TB2 drones, which are produced by the company Baykar Makina. Erdoğan's son in law, Selçuk Bayraktar, is head of technology there.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Ankara's plans won't bring peace

Turkey's plans for Afrin mean that the next conflict won't be long in coming, Tages-Anzeiger fears:

“Even if Turkey were to announce that it will soon withdraw its soldiers from Afrin that wouldn't be purely good news. The deputy prime minister has said that the region will be given back to its 'true owners'. By that he's clearly not referring to the Kurdish inhabitants who have fled. Ankara is no doubt planning to settle Syrian Arabs who fled to Turkey here. That means the next conflict is just a matter of time - forced population exchanges have never led to peace.”

Artı Gerçek (TR) /

Plunder instead of reconstruction

Artı Gerçek has little hope that the reconstruction can be successful:

“This is not about lies, because the plans at least reflect the foreign ministry's entrepreneurial spirit. But in the language of the government the enterprise and its development mean nothing but brutal, neoliberal plunder - an enterprise in which the cities are razed to the ground and then rebuilt. ... Naturally not in the way the inhabitants want them to be - no one has asked them for their opinion - but by handing over the cities to local companies. So this is about the continuation of the plunder we have been witnessing for years in varying intensity, dimensions and regions. Centralist, authoritarian. ... And what will become of the people? The hundreds of thousands who have lost family members and been driven to migrate? No answer.”

News247 (GR) /

Erdoğan may decide to shift more borders

The website News247 warns that Turkey's operations aren't over yet:

“With a government like Turkey's, which uses the refugee crisis for blackmail and takes money from the EU while at the same time turning its back on both Europe and Greece, it won't be long before it crosses boundaries elsewhere too. With a state like the Turkish state, which uses the force of arms to shift borders on 'one side of the map' at will, it's only a matter of time before it tries the same thing on the other side. And with a leader who speaks of a Greater Turkey and is as expansionist and imperialist as Erdoğan, all it will require is the right circumstances for him to take action on the other side of the country.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Europe must show more backbone

The refugee agreement with Turkey must not prevent the EU from criticising Erdoğan's Syria policy as it must, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung demands:

“Two years after the agreement with the EU came into force Turkish democracy is in such a sorry state that here in Switzerland hardly anyone is calling into question the military offensive in Syria and the cynical refugee policy. The West, too, either remains silent or at most voices timid criticism. Clearly there are fears that the angry man on the Bosphorus could cancel the deal - a threat Ankara repeats every six months. Yet it's unlikely that a wave of refugees will head for Greece. Many migrants know that they would end up in a desolate detention camp. Europe's image would benefit if it showed more backbone vis-à-vis Erdoğan.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Stop Erdoğan

Sanctions and a clear stance vis-à-vis Turkey are what is needed, Deutschlandfunk stresses:

“Enough of the shocked paralysis. Enough of the dangerous hope that a few weeks of war can eliminate all the so-called terrorists and establish a new form of peace in northern Syria. Even though the United States has once again proven shamefully incapable of charting out a potential path to peace in Syria. Even though Turkey's President Erdoğan doesn't seem to give a hoot about the resolutions in New York. Only the international community can ensure through sanctions, penalties and crystal-clear demands that the suffering and misery in northern Syria don't spread and increase in the coming weeks.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Nato's geopolitical breaking point

The repercussions of the Turkish offensive in Afrin go far beyond the regional conflict, Der Standard explains:

“The Turkish-Kurdish-Syrian border has become a kind of geopolitical breaking point where Nato member Turkey has teamed up with the Americans' arch-enemies - Russia and Iran. The United States, for it part, is unable to stop its allies in Ankara from engaging in an intervention that in the view of most observers violates international law and certainly goes against the US's interests. In other words: every shot that is fired in Afrin is a shot in Nato's foot.”

Karar (TR) /

Also a victory against the PKK

Erdoğan's illustrious victory should force the PKK to finally lay down its weapons, columnist Hakan Albayrak writes in Karar:

“Thank god it was achieved without destroying Afrin and without bloodshed. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has lived up to his title of supreme commander. ... These latest developments in northern Syria will have an affect on the domestic situation in Turkey and should force the PKK to lay down its weapons without conditions. Talking of Turkey's internal affairs, I would like to mention that a large part of the PKK base is angry with the organisation for ending the peace and is expressing this anger by leaving its calls for solidarity unanswered.”