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Real target of Erdogan's Olive Branch could be US clout

In the third week of Turkey's frustrating fight against Syrian Kurdish forces in Afrin, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be betting on an even bigger payoff than domestic support: seeing the United States effectively pushed out of Syria.
Turkish soldiers guard a position on Mount Bersaya, north of the Syrian town of Azaz near the border with Turkey, on January 29, 2018.
Turkey launched operation "Olive Branch" on January 20 against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in Afrin, supporting Syrian opposition fighters with ground troops and air strikes. / AFP PHOTO / Nazeer al-Khatib        (Photo credit should read NAZEER AL-KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

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