As Turkey’s offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces in Afrin grinds on for a third week, the prevailing wisdom is that NATO’s second-largest army is getting bogged down. Critics point to the number of Turks killed in combat — at least 31 in 26 days — the swelling pile of disabled helicopters and tanks and the slow pace of Turkish advances into the hilly enclave. A veteran Kurdish politician went so far as to suggest that Afrin would become Turkey’s “Vietnam.”
Others highlight Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to leverage the tidal wave of Turkish nationalism inspired by Afrin for political gain. Never mind the cost, the real objective of Operation Olive Branch, they say, is to help cement his victory in the presidential elections due to be held in 2019.