Conflict

Security situation in Afrin precarious a year after Operation Olive Branch

Syria

Although all seems calm within the city of Afrin, the unstable geopolitical situation in the region maintains the tension in the air.

A year has passed since Turkey and its affiliated rebel forces in Syria launched their offensive to capture the city and canton of Afrin from the Kurdish-dominated People’s Protection Units (YPG), linked to the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.

At the time, the main rebel force used by Turkey to launch the offensive was the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is now part of the wider military coalition called the National Front for Liberation (NFL). This group is now in control of Afrin.

Locals from the area say that the situation is fairly stable at the moment, but there remain several concerns:

This road needs to be repaired. We want a policeman to prevent cars from parking on both sides of the road. Electricity is expensive and people are poor. We need clinics and hospitals because people have to go to the west countryside, and not everyone has cars”, said a resident in Afrin.

With regards to the security situation, frequent attacks are being launched into Afrin by the Afrin Liberation Forces, which includes members of the YPG, who aim to retake the area from the Turkish-backed rebel forces.

Turkey’s primary aim in supporting the seizure of Afrin was to create a “secure zone” that would be free of YPG elements, which Turkey links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which it deems to be a terrorist group. Turkey has frequently expressed the desire to extend this “secure zone” to neighbouring Manbij. The risk of this happening has increased over the past few weeks since the declaration made by Donald Trump that the US forces would be leaving Syria in the near future and halting its support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Nevertheless, the political authorities in the north of Syria, the Democratic Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria, have been in talks with the government in Damascus to cede elements of political and military autonomy in exchange for security.