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The bitter legacy of Turkey in Afrin

Afrinis fear the destruction of religious and historic sites, and ethnic cleansing in Turkish-controlled Afrin is helping in the resurgence of Islamic State and other al-Qaeda affiliated groups.

“We did not learn from Afrin; that is how we are in this mess in Idlib,” said a two-star retired major general when news about the harassment of the Turkish army’s Morek observation point by Russian-backed forces broke. Turkey started its second cross-border military operation, this one named Operation Olive Branch, in January 2018, which resulted in the capture of Afrin province in northern Syria (the first was Operation Euphrates Shield). Completed in the span of two months, this operation is seen as a military success in Ankara. Unlike Operation Euphrates Shield, which mobilized twice as many Free Syrian Army (FSA) soldiers as the Turkish army, Operation Olive Branch relied on Turkish soldiers (on a three-to-one ratio with the FSA) — mainly commando units and gendarmerie. Today, the Afrin area is controlled by Turkish-backed forces. Turkey has been insistent on a safe zone and is determined to push Kurdish forces away from its border. The Olive Branch mission was to cleanse the region from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units. Yet all Afrinis suffer under ethnic, cultural and religious cleansing.

Turkish Radio and Television reports that Afrin, now “freed of terror," continues to operate at a "normal pace.” Nevertheless, the same report says that gendarmeries continue their training to combat terrorism and battle mines and traps. What really has happened in Afrin since March 2018?

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