Outside of its borders, Turkey has been focusing a great deal of fire power on the Aleppo region of Syria, located near Turkey’s southwest border. In the al-Bab region, the Turkish air force pounded dozens of targets, 51 according to Ankara, which even reported killing 22 IS militants, and figure that is impossible to confirm. In all, the Turks say 37 sites, which were used as shelters, have been destroyed. In addition to the air campaign, the Turkish military used artillery to further degrade IS in northwest Syria and impose a Turkish presence there.
In al-Bab, Turkey’s offensive there has caused the death of at least 16 Turkish soldiers, according to military sources. Dozens were also injured.
However, this operation called Euphrates Shields was no designed solely to eliminate IS, but to also insure that the Kurds of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), an ally of the PKK do not use the region as a launch pad to attack Turkey. Regardless, between PKK, IS, and the Gulen movement, Ankara has its work cut out.
Domestically, the Turkish security services have been on high-alert in an effort to interdict IS attacks within Turkey, as the military execute its campaign in Syria. In Istanbul, on Friday, December 23, 2016 the security services arrested more than 30 people suspected to be IS militants or sympathizers. The police are still actively looking to roundup another group of over 40 suspects.
Although the campaign to eliminate the IS, PKK, and Gulen threat from Ankara’s perspective makes sense, the Turkish government should also be looking for ways to deescalate and lessen the tension. It is inconceivable that a campaign of arrests would not be followed by a response from those on the receiving end of the campaign. In all cases, such response translates into more meaningless terror that a political path for de-escalation can help reduce. However, we currently observe that there is no clear path to reducing tension in Turkey. All positions have been hardened and therefore we expect violence to dominate in the foreseeable future.