Syria operation has been critical since Obama armed YPG, Altun says

Turkish President Communications Director Fahrettin Altun (AA Photo)

Operation Peace Spring has been necessary ever since the Obama administration decided the arm the PKK terrorist organization’s Syrian affiliate, Presidency Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said Monday, noting that since that day, Ankara has said it will not allow the creation of a terror corridor along the country’s borders.

In an interview with Turkish daily Hürriyet, Altun said after the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ)-linked elements were eliminated from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) following the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, the country launched its first cross-border counterterrorism operation, Operation Euphrates Shield.

The operation asserted once again that the country will do what is necessary to fight terrorism, Altun said, stressing that the second operation – Operation Olive Branch, which aimed to clear Syria’s Afrin from the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), the PKK’s Syrian offshoot – prevented the terrorists from reaching the Mediterranean.

Turkey launched its third cross-border counterterrorism operation, Operation Peace Spring, in northern Syria targeting terrorists affiliated with Daesh and the YPG on Oct. 9. This operation aims to eliminate the threat of an establishment of a terror corridor and provide the safety and security of Turkish people while allowing the return of Syrian refugees to their homes, Altun said.

Since 2016, Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northwestern Syria have liberated the region from YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists, making it possible for Syrians who fled the violence to return home.

Turkey has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates in northern Syria, pledging military action to prevent the formation of a “terrorist corridor” there.

Altun also highlighted that the use of domestic defense products in the field during the operation – including armored vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), storm howitzers, snipers and laser missiles – has increased that country’s military power.

“Koral Electronic Warfare System developed by ASELSAN plays an important role in Operation Peace Spring,” Altun said, adding that the domestically-developed system blinds radars and interrupts communication.

Exports in the country’s defense and aviation sector increased by 37.7% compared to the previous year, breaking a record, Altun added.

Altun highlighted that Operation Peace Spring is being carried out with utmost sensitivity in order not to harm any civilians or historical artifacts, cultural and religious places. However, the terrorists are attempting to take advantage of Turkey’s discretion by using civilian settlement areas as their bases for the attack and wearing civilian clothes.

Altun said that there are a large number of Kurdish refugees in Turkey as well as they were forced to leave their homes for not adapting the PKK terrorists’ ideology. The operation aims for the voluntary return of these refugees to Syria after more steps are taken, such as providing shelter, schools and hospitals, which requires financial support from the international community.

Answering a question about whether the YPG would strike an agreement with Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, Altun said that the terrorists had previously tried the same thing, most recently during the Operation Olive Branch. “The terrorist organization is no longer useful,” he said, however. “Now there is nothing the terrorist organization can offer to anyone.”

Altun noted that there is no such thing as the rumored release of Daesh terrorists. “Turkey was far ahead of the international community in fighting terrorism from the very beginning of the Syria crisis,” adding that the country showed great effort to capture the foreign nationals in Daesh while they were traveling from European countries to join the terrorist organization.

Turkish security forces have been involved in a long-running campaign to rid Turkey of Daesh terrorists. The terrorist group is blamed for a string of terror attacks in Turkey that killed dozens of people over the past three years in Istanbul and Ankara as well as cities in the southeast.

Military operations in Syria and Iraq led to a rapid decline in Daesh territories and the number of its militants. Turkey helped the Syrian moderate opposition, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), to regain control of a number of Daesh-controlled towns in an operation in 2016.

Foreigners looking to join Daesh in Syria have mostly attempted to use Turkey as their crossing point. Turkey has taken significant measures against foreign Daesh members and has urged Western countries for intelligence cooperation.

According to official figures, some 2,000 people were arrested and 7,000 others deported in operations against Daesh in Turkey, while around 70,000 people were denied entry to Turkey over their suspected links to the terrorist group.

Security forces have also foiled at least 10 attack plots. Figures show that some 18,500 suspects are currently being monitored for links to the terrorist group after being identified at airports upon arrival.

Later on Monday, Altun criticized the “false equation” of Syrian Kurds with the PKK terrorist group and its Syrian offshoot.

“We categorically reject the false equation of Syrian Kurds with the terrorist organization PKK.The terrorists invaded NE Syria, a predominantly Sunni Arab area, imposed its Marxist-Leninist ideology on the local population, and exiled or killed anyone that challenged its rule,” he said on Twitter.

“Western governments have been lying to their citizens about Syria,” he continued. “The PKK established a ‘one-party statelet’ with no free press, no dissidents and widespread torture. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian Kurds still live in Turkey, fearing that PKK will kill them if they return.”