The GPM Global Forecast is a bi-weekly, members-only article series for 2018. It provides analysis and short-term forecasting on key military, political, and economic events around the globe.
Turkey’s Erdogan Threatens to Widen the Afrin Offensive to Manbij in the East
The Afrin offensive is now in its fifth day, with dozens of reported casualties on the YPG side and at least two Turkish military deaths. The Turkish military and allied rebel groups have made slow progress so far, with heavy shelling and air raids apparently not being enough to soften up YPG positions for a major ground advance.
Militarily the Turkish forces have a decisive advantage. However, YPG commanders will be turning to the guerilla playbook in order to bleed the Turks over the long-term. The mountainous territory is already in the YPG’s favor, as is the presence of hundreds of thousands of trapped civilians which negate air power to a certain degree (the Turks will be somewhat sensitive to the optics of their campaign given the total lack of an ISIS presence in Afrin).
There have been unconfirmed reports of the Kurdish authorities ruthlessly attempting to maintain their advantage by not allowing displaced civilians to cross into Syrian government-controlled territories.
President Erdogan raised the stakes further on Wednesday by declaring that the Turkish government would “foil games along our borders starting from Manbij.” Manbij is where the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield are staring each other down in the east. The town is west of the Euphrates, which puts it in Turkey’s no-go zone for Kurdish militias. However, it’s also where thousands of US advisors and Special Forces have been stationed in support of the SDF’s fight against Islamic State.