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Operation Euphrates Shield: A postmortem

As Turkey closes the chapter on Operation Euphrates Shield, its military intervention in northern Syria, it's important to look at what it did and did not accomplish.
Turkish military vehicles drive in the Syrian rebel-held town of al-Rai, as they head towards the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, Syria January 4, 2017. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi - RTX2XITU

A day before the long-awaited March 30 visit of new US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim dramatically announced that Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey's military intervention in northern Syria, had “successfully” come to a close. A precursory postmortem of the vaunted military campaign raises a number of questions, including what caused its termination and why it was not reported immediately? The answers lead one to wonder what comes next.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had said after al-Bab's capture in late February from the Islamic State (IS) that the operation would continue on to its next target, Manbij, and after that to Raqqa. Not only Cavusoglu, but the ultimate decision-maker on Turkey's Syria policy, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also repeatedly stated Turkey’s intention of removing the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij and replacing the SDF as Washington's main ally in the campaign to capture Raqqa.

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