Turkey’s autocratic president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said on Friday that Turkish-backed troops had surrounded Afrin city center in northwestern Syria and were ready to enter at any moment, as part of Operation Olive Branch.
“Right now, Afrin city center is surrounded,” Erdoğan said at the inauguration of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Politics Academy in the capital of Ankara. He added that a total of 3,171 terrorists have been “neutralized” in Afrin since the start of Operation Olive Branch in northwestern Syria. Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
On Jan. 20 Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to capture Afrin in northwestern Syria. Since the beginning of the operation, the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have captured 159 locations, including five town centers, 124 villages, 30 strategic areas and one alleged People’s Protection Units (YPG)/Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) base.
Erdoğan noted that 815 square kilometers (506 square miles) have been taken from the “terrorists” so far.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from the oppression and cruelty of terrorists. The military also claimed only “terror targets” were being destroyed and “utmost care” was being taken to not harm civilians.
“We are in Afrin today, tomorrow we will be in Manbij. The next day we will ensure that terrorists are cleared from east of the Euphrates to the Iraqi border,” Erdoğan said. He added that in the initial phase 2,000 square kilometers will be taken under control. “Then we will ensure security there and send our displaced brothers of Afrin back to their homes.”