Turkey, which has long been criticized for doing too little to tackle Daesh, is reportedly planning to create a buffer zone on its border with Syria, Stratfor reported on Tuesday. These efforts could already be underway – Turkish forces have started to clear mines along the border near the Syrian town of Jarabulus, which is currently controlled by Daesh.
"Turkey has already begun to ramp up its artillery strikes along its border with Syria to help its rebel allies and to destroy Islamic State targets. This could indicate an effort to soften enemy defenses ahead of a Turkish ground incursion once minesweeping operations have been completed," the Texas-based think tank explained.
Turkey has begun minesweeping ops along the border near Jarabulus. Turkish ground invasion into Syria imminent?— Jason Buttrill (@JasonButtrill) 20 января 2016
In addition, Ankara has carried out a major operation against the Kurds living in Turkey since the peace process between Turkish authorities and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) collapsed last year. The crackdown, which has claimed hundreds of lives, has increasingly been referred to as a civil war. More than 2,000 scholars from Turkey and beyond branded it a massacre in an open letter, which was published last week.
Turkey's ground offensive will likely add additional stress to the already strained relations between Ankara and Moscow. The two countries have seen their ties deteriorate after a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian bomber over Syrian territory, citing airspace violations that, according to Russian officials and the pilot, did not took place. The Su-24 was on an anti-Daesh mission in northern Syria when it was downed.
"Still, that does not mean that Ankara, with Washington's help, is not trying to reach an understanding with Moscow, at least in terms of setting up deconfliction procedures to avoid clashing with each other in the Syrian warzone, which is rapidly becoming crowded," the think-tank assumed.
As an alternative to a ground offensive, Ankara could seal the border with Syria, which terrorists have used to smuggle oil, supplies and fighters in and out of the warzone.