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    This picture taken around 5 kilometres west from the Turkish Syrian border city of Karkamis in the southern region of Gaziantep, on August 25, 2016 shows Turkish Army tanks driving to the Syrian Turkish border town of Jarabulus

    Turkey's Ground Offensive in Syria Caught Washington 'Off Guard'

    © AFP 2019 / BULENT KILIC
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    Turkish leadership said that the ground offensive in northern Syria was carried out in coordination with the US-led anti-Daesh coalition but Ankara appears to have launched the military campaign, dubbed Operation Euphrates Shield, without giving Washington a heads up.

    True, both sides discussed the possible operation months before it was launched. In fact, the Turks apparently raised the issue in June 2015, but the US "did not believe Turkey's plan [was] feasible," an unnamed senior military source told newspaper Hurriyet last week.

    Turkey's plans were shelved when Russia launched its counterterrorism campaign in Syria in September 2015. The downing of a Russian bomber by the Turkish Air Force on November 24, 2015, was also a factor that prevented Ankara from giving the operation the green light. 

    Washington seems to have warmed up to the initiative in recent months, but the US wanted to remove Kurdish forces from the conflict area. The White House was ready to conduct a high-level meeting on the possible operation on August 24, the Wall Street Journal reported, but by that time Turkey had already launched the ground offensive.

    "Ankara pulled the trigger on the mission unilaterally, without giving officials in Washington advance warning," the newspaper noted, adding that Turkey conducted its first airstrikes against targets in Syria alone.

    The US decided to provide air cover to the Turkish forces only after it understood that Operation Euphrates Shield was underway.

    Turkish army tanks make their way towards the Syrian border town of Jarabulus, Syria August 24, 2016
    © REUTERS / Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office
    Turkish army tanks make their way towards the Syrian border town of Jarabulus, Syria August 24, 2016

    The media outlet described what happened as a "breakdown in coordination" that the US chose to keep under wraps. 

    Early on August 24, the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim issued a statement saying that Turkey launched an operation to free the Syrian city of Jarablus that involved "the Turkish Armed Forces and the International Coalition Air Forces," referring to the US warplanes.

    Hours later an unnamed US official told Reuters that the US Air Force would provide air cover for Operation Euphrates Shield, adding that Washington was "in synch" with Ankara's initiative.

    Apparently, this is not how it went down.

    "Behind the scenes, cooperation between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners broke down at senior levels," the WSJ reported, citing unnamed officials from the US and Turkey. "The two countries weren't as aligned on the operation as their public statements indicated."

    Turkish soldiers sit on a tank driving to Syria from the Turkish Syrian border city of Karkamis in the southern region of Gaziantep, on August 27, 2016
    © AFP 2019 / BULENT KILIC
    Turkish soldiers sit on a tank driving to Syria from the Turkish Syrian border city of Karkamis in the southern region of Gaziantep, on August 27, 2016

    As a result, Turkey's operation undermined Washington's "behind-the-scenes" efforts to remove the Syrian Kurds from regions west of the Euphrates, something that Ankara has always seen as a red line.

    Since Washington failed to accomplish this task on time, Turkey's decision to go ahead with the operation also "created a prickly, new challenge for the US" as fighting erupted between its two regional allies that were supposed to focus on tackling Daesh.

    Earlier this week, reports emerged that Turkey and the Syrian Kurds reached a tentative agreement to halt fighting, but EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik later denied these reports. 

    "Turkey is a sovereign country. Therefore, there can be no talk of Turkey reaching any sort of deal with a terrorist group, considering it an equal. Syrian defense forces are not pursuing the interests of ethnic Kurds, but rather their own," Celik told Anadolu news agency.

    Related:

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    Russia Calls on Turkey to Agree Military Actions in Syria With Country's Gov't
    Syrian Kurdish Militia Largely Withdraws From West Bank of Euphrates River
    Washington's 'Double-Dealing' Leads Turkey to Gear Up for Manbij Offensive
    Tags:
    military operation in Syria, lack of coordination, ground military operation, military operation, Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey, Syria, United States
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