Turkey aims to ‘secure’ Tal Rifaat: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
ERBIL (Kurdistan24) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said that Turkey could aim to secure places on the Syrian border, including Tal Rifaat.
"We will ultimately secure the places near our border where terrorists cluster, particularly Tal Rifaat," he said, according to a report by the Turkish state-owned Anadolu Agency.
He also said Turkey will not allow “no means allow a terrorist organization in Türkiye's south, Syria's north, or Iraq's north to exist."
He also said they will continue their operations from air and land.
In the past, Turkey has also threatened to attack Tal Rifaat.
Nicholas A. Heras, the Senior Director for Strategy and Programs at New Lines Institute told Kurdistan 24 that “Tal Rifaat is a vital staging point for Turkey to be able to both maintain an occupation over Afrin, and to be able to seize Aleppo if the Assad-led government in Damascus begins to collapse.”
“The town is a key logistical and command node for Turkey's long-term plan to carve out an indefinite presence in northern Syria.”
In February 2016, Kurdish-backed forces took control of Tal Rifaat from Islamist rebel groups. Turkey promised Tal Rifaat’s displaced people that it would recapture the area in exchange for participation in the attack on Afrin.
Contrary to these assurances, the promised recapture of Tal Rifaat never materialized.
As of 2018, Afrin is currently under the occupation of Turkey and its proxy Syrian militants. Tal Rifaat has become home to a significant population of Kurdish civilians who were displaced from Afrin. Meanwhile, those displaced from Tal Rifaat find themselves residing in areas under Turkish control.
Syrian Kurdish forces have a presence in both Tal Rifaat and Manbij, as do pro-Syrian government forces and Iranian-backed forces.
The area often sees shelling between Turkish-backed groups, the Syrian government and Kurdish-backed forces. Moreover, Turkey has carried out several drone strikes in the area.
Aron Lund, a fellow at Century International, told Kurdistan 24 that “the fact that both the United States and Russia are now bogged down in conflict and have so much on their mind is something that may tempt Turkey to push for changes in northern Syria.”
“Both the United States and Russia forcefully opposed Turkey's plans to intervene in 2021 and 2022. Back then, it was enough to make Erdogan back down.”
“Whether that would still be the case now, with Russia up over its head in Ukraine and the United States struggling to manage the Gaza crisis – well, I don't know. And it seems possible that Erdogan doesn't know either and has decided to find out.”