Conflict

The Syrian Army Takes Positions Along Northern Syria As SDF Withdraws

Syria

Marking the first time in over three years, the SAA has started establishing border posts along the Turkish-Syrian Border, taking over the areas vacated by the SDF which withdrew from the region following the launch of the Turkish operations in the region.

Marking the first time in over three years, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) entered the town of Amouda that lies along the Turkish-Syrian Border.

The return of the SAA, whose 5th Battalion of Border Guards established 84 border posts along the 90 kilometre of the border since October 27th, marks the continued withdrawal process of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the face of the on-going Operation Peace Spring launched by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Syrian National Army (SNA) that they support.

The SAA has also been stationed in the town of Dirbesiyeh, effectively taking control of the stretch of the border between Ras al-Ain/Serekaniye – now under SNA control – and Qamishli City.

The arrival of the SAA is part of two major agreements. The first is the Sochi Agreement between Russia and Turkey that was reached at the end of October. Under this agreement, Russia would seek to ensure the withdrawal of the SDF – whose main component, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) is viewed as a terrorist group by Turkey – to address Turkey’s security concerns while at the same furthering its own interests by enabling the SAA to extend control over an area it has had no presence for years.

The other agreement involves the SDF and the SAA in which the former asked the latter for assistance in the fight against the SNA and the TSK. Although tensions between the SDF and the SAA have been brewing for months, the two sides nevertheless remain the only factions in Syria that did not experience extended fighting or hostility with one-another.

With both of them viewing the SNA as a threat, they have been able to settle their differences enough to facilitate the SAA’s deployment in key areas in a bid to block SNA gains. Indeed, the SDF spokesperson, Mustafa Bali, described the agreement as being intended to stop the Turkish operations and prevent an “ethnic cleansing” that many in the SDF-held areas fear will take place.

It is estimated that some 34,000 SDF fighters have withdrawn from the border. The TSK is now in the process of launching joint patrols with Russian Military Police as part of verifying the withdrawal. However, Ankara has already expressed some dissatisfaction about the current state of affairs. Meanwhile, the SAA and the SNA have entered into direct clashes around Ras al-Ain, raising fears that it could draw the TSK in, resulting in a direct shooting war between two national armies. For now, the future of the region looks uncertain.