Turkish troops entered rebel occupied Idlib Province, Syria establishing a “de-escalation zone” this past week. The strategic location and recent history may indicate larger Turkish goals, other than peace in Syria.
Reaching an agreement with Russia and Iran, Turkish troops intervened a few nights ago on October 12th, pushing east into the rebel controlled province towards the city of Aleppo. The Turkish troops now separate the rebel pocket of Idlib, largely controlled by Al Qaeda rebranded Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), and the Kurdish forces in Afrin.
The move prevents any further western advances of the Kurds in Afrin, which has seen increasing tensions throughout this past year; even requiring US SOF to enter the area in June to deescalate tensions between US allies. The Turks support several rebel groups within the Idlib pocket, including purported ties and providing material support to HTS. By separating the two factions, Turkey provides the Syrian rebels (including HTS) some much needed breathing room, and they are free to redeploy troops elsewhere in operations against the Assad Regime.
The strategic and convenient location of the Turkish deployment clearly reflects their continued meddling in Syrian affairs. It also serves as evidence to Turkey’s support of some of the nefarious elements within the Idlib rebel pocket. Effectively creating a buffer zone between the western backed Kurds and the Jihadists, Turkish troops now nearly surround Kurdish controlled Afrin. This advantage, strikes at the heart of a crucial US ally and stands to benefit Jihadist groups like HTS.