The war that bleeds that region, what happens there can be crucial for the future of the international coalition led by the United States that fights against the self-styled Islamic State.
The reality is that the governments of Ankara and Washington, both allies in the fight against the jihadist group, have conflicting interests in the area .
Both Afrín and the nearby city of Manbij are controlled by Kurdish militias: Popular Protection Units (YPG, for its acronym in Kurdish).
Turkey, always alert to Kurdish separatism, maintains that this organization is a ” terrorist group “ .
However, the USA supports it as a key player in the recovery of Syrian areas that were held by the Islamic State.
An imminent armed confrontation there can cause ” irreversible damage to relations ” between the two countries, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusglo, speaking to Conspiracy Talk News, and was thus crucial for the international struggle against the group.
In the sights of Turkey
The Turkish government has been targeting the YPG for some time.
He believes that they are an armed wing of the Kurdistan Party (PKK) , which since 1984 has been fighting for the creation of an independent Kurdish state in part of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.
That is why Ankara wants to evict Kurdish fighters from Syrian areas near its borders.
YPG deny any kind of political or military link with the PKK.
With US support
The YPG formed the Syrian Democratic Forces (FDS) , an alliance Kurdish-Arab fighting Islamic State. In that, it has the backing of the US, a country that is also an ally of Turkey in the fight against the jihadist group .
In 2016, the Turkish army supported other Syrian rebel groups in an offensive that evicted Islamic State fighters from important enclaves such as Jarablus and al-Bab and simultaneously held back the members of the SDS in their advance towards Afrin.
At the time, Washington managed to dissuade Ankara from taking the positions of the Kurdish-Arab alliance on Syrian soil by force.
New Security force
Things became tense recently, when the US plan became known to create a new “border security force” made up of 30,000 people, half from the ranks of the SDS.
The declared objective is to “prevent the infiltration of Islamic State militants” from Turkey, Iraq and parts of the Euphrates River, which divides the regions controlled by the Syrian government and the FDS.
The US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, came out to clarify that officials of his country had not expressed themselves correctly.
Tillerson explained that the US It is not trying to create a new force , but is trying to ensure that allied militants are able to protect the territory from attacks by remnant Islamic State cells.
The explanations did not conform to Turkey .
The Syrian government, which has avoided confronting the Kurds, said a Turkish offensive would be a “blatant attack” on its sovereignty.
Russia, in turn an ally of Damascus, warned that an escalation of this type could lead to the partition of Syria .
Conflict between allies
A Turkish attack on Afrin and Manbij, in addition to placing opposing positions on Turkey and the US, two allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) , affects relations between Ankara and Moscow.
It is believed that Russia has troops in the Afrin area and that it controls its airspace.
A Turkish attack without Russian consent would open a new front in a war that, according to activists, already claimed 340,000 lives .
If, on the contrary, Russia gave a tacit approval, both Moscow and Ankara would be in a situation of closeness that would tighten Turkish relations with their Western allies.
Outside the geopolitical sphere, the humanitarian consequences of a military attack on Afrin would be serious.
Kurdish sources estimate that 1 million people live in that city.