Turkey’s careful and long-time prepared incursion into Northern Syria seemed to be a success in the first days. Indeed in less than five days , they managed to push back both the YPG and Daesh and capture Jarabulus and the surrounding villages. They pushed back the Kurds far away and are ISIS was on the verge of collapsing in the region. Still their biggest achievement was to secure American and Russian support in their fight against the YPG. However the Operation Euphrates Shield seems now less sucessful after few weeks of fightings. Indeed the Free Syrian Army (Turkey’s local proxies) lost several villages around Al-Rai to ISIS and Turkey has to intervin more and more.
The Free Syrian Army failures
The FSA, since few days has needed more and more support from Turkey (Artillery Strikes, Air Strikes and now tank support) to push back the counter attack from ISIS. Their morale seems low and their ability to fight seems limited. the FSA troops seems to be holding ground only thanks to the covert intervention of Turkish Special Forces and air cover.
The main reason behind Turkish intervention was the successes of the YPG on the Battlefield that were supported by the West and especially the US. The biggest fears of Turkish leadership was that the Kurds of Iraq makes a junction with the Kurds of Afrin in Syria, and that they decide to create their own state. That is why they decided to intervin in Northern Syria, their goal was to liberates the eastern part of the Euphrates from the YPG and especially the key city of Manbij that they liberated.
Still the operation , despite initial sucess in pushing back the Kurds, was stopped by a US-brokered cease-fire. Now they lost their element of surprise and their proxy is not strong enough to repel the Kurds. Therefore Turkey does not have many options, they would have to opt for a full scale war against the YPG supported by the US because its their only reliable proxy in Syria or to withdraw from Northern Syria and to support an inefficient proxy.
Additionally fighting the Kurds will slowler the fight against ISIS , and strenghten them further , giving them the ability to commit more and more terror attacks in Istanbul.
The Turkish Army
The discontent in Turkish Armed Forces against Erdogan is likely to be even more important following lack of results in Syria. Hundreds of generals and colonels were dismissed from their duties following the failed coup. The discontent and the morale of Turkish soldier is extremely low , and there is a possibility that a revolt breaks out in the Turkish armed forces if they are force into an attrition war in Syria. Indeed the soldiers don’t feel they are being supported by Turkish politicians.
This was supposed to be a test to show that even despite the coup and the following purge, the Turkish military was still strong and efficient. This show seems to be a painful failure for Erdogan.
The Kurds of Turkey
Following the attacks on the YPG , the PKK and the Turkish Kurds decided to step- up attacks against Turkish officials in the South East of the country , adding further instability to the country from the inside. There is a strong connection between the YPG and the PKK and therefore any attacks on the YPG in Syria would trigger a counter reaction from inside Turkey.
Conclusion : After initial success in the initial stages and the Jarabulus takeover , it has become evident that the Turkey has much more to loose and little to win in the event of an attrition war in Northern Syria. They will probably withdraw in a near future and step-up their supports for their inefficient proxy FSA in Northern Syria in the hope that it will stop the Kurds to make the junction. They will however not be able to pressure the Kurds that will be a close American Ally in the region and very useful for the takeover of Raqqa and Mosul.