Are we going in to war against Syria?
Are we going in to war against ISIL?
Are we entering Syria?
Then, what are we going to do?
We will form a buffer region.
The point in question is to form a buffer Zone in Jarabulus, which is 110 km. long and is under ISIL's control. I will share the details; however, are we going to enter Syrian lands for the buffer region?
If the control of this region can be provided from within Turkey's borders, then we won't be entering Syria's lands. However, it doesn't seem likely to control an area, which is 110 km. long and 33 km. deep, with howitzer balls. Thus, accordingly, the military will cross the border, and position themselves on “battalion" and “company" levels.
In the sense of taking these types of decisions, the MGK (National Security Council) meeting had a historic importance.
First, I'd like to share details related with two points that caused misunderstandings.
Within the context of preparations regarding the buffer zone formation in Syria, Chief of General Staff Necdet Özel asked for the “Government instruction" from Prime Minister Davutoğlu, during the Security Summit. After the Syria memorandum in November 2014, the government gave written instruction to the military. As the Chief of General Staff asked for a new instruction; it caused questions like “Is the military holding out? Did the coalition possibilities affect the military's stance?" Besides, evaluations like, “Chief of General Staff, Özel has one month left of duty, thus, he doesn't want to take the risk on the matter of Syria" have already begun.
For the past few days, I've searched for the answer of these questions, which are being talked about seriously, and talked to military sources in Ankara. They are uncomfortable with this type of evaluation. Thus, I don't even want to hear news saying, “Chief of General Staff will resign". “Even if it's 3 days before his duty is finished, the Chief of General Staff will be on duty till the last minute."
The holding out matter is another thing they're uncomfortable with.
“If they say enter, we will enter. The formation of a government is the duty of TBMM and our political parties. The military doesn't make coalition plans or pursue this type of task. This is equal to insulting TSK (Turkish Armed Forces)"
Then, what's the essence of the matter? Why did the military asked for a new government instruction? There had been two security summits related with Syria. Jarabulus, where the buffer region will be formed ad which is located between Afrin and Kobani, is under ISIL's control. The Conquest Army, led by Al Nusra, is controlling Azez.
Chief of General Staff Özel is stating that the instruction given to TSK, within the context of the instruction dated November 2, 2014, was directed at possible threats from Syria. He is also saying that the region, where the buffer region will be formed, is under ISIL's control, and ISIL, PYD and Al Nusra are a threat for TSK.
“The region, where the buffer region will be formed, is special. We are facing a special situation. Thus, we need a new written instruction directed at this point."
What's the “special" reference?
Not only TSK will be positioned in that buffer zone. At the same time, it's being planned to use the region to correspond to the possible civil migrations. Besides, there are plans to use this area within the context of “Train-Equip". As you know, within the context of the Train-Equip activities we conduct with the U.S., this training is being delivered at the Gendarmerie facilities in Kırşehir.
Does TSK have an Operation Plan for the buffer Zone? They do. The previous Operation Plans were updated after receiving the written instruction from the government, and sent to the Service Commands. At the 2nd Army Command, which is responsible for activities in Syria, the Operation Plans were updated. It's being stated that the updates are completed up to battalion level. According to the size of the threat, the weapon, vehicle and equipment necessities are being refreshed. For now, no additional soldier reinforcement is planned. However, no plan goes as planned at the beginning; thus, the soldier reinforcement matter is being kept open.
The problem is this; the length of the buffer region is certain. However, how deep will it be? If the depth is 5 km. then 2 brigades, if it's 10-15 km then 4 brigades will be positioned. Besides, throughout 110 km, the soldiers won't be lined up. The scouts already completed their missions. According to that, battalions or companies will be positioned in regions that are important in terms of location. These forces will have both observation and attacking power. The Storm Howitzers, whose range is around 40 km, will be providing the security of the buffer region.
Will our military forces, which we will position in our borders and on Syria lands, keep the region under fire if the Secure Region is declared? “The region will not be bombed until there is a threat. If there is an attack or a possibility of an attack, it will be returned."
After our plane had been hit, we had declared engagement rules against Syria. Will the same rules be valid for ISIL or PYD? “The engagement rules were against Syria, it won't work against a terrorist organization."
As much as being a military decision, the formation of a buffer Zone in Syria had an important diplomatic aspect.
Thus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in contact with Iran and Russia, who are maintaining their diplomatic relations with the Assad regime. Besides, the UN Security Council is being informed in Malaysia. Over Iran and Russia, the following will be said; “We have no issues on the matter of Syria's land integrity. However, if you interfere with our military existence, then we will return an equal treatment".
Here, we shouldn't disregard the US factor. Let's see: will the U.S., who is leading the struggle against ISIL, cause problems on the buffer region matter or show understanding? We will find out.
If we are to return to the question “will the Turkish soldiers cross the border?", then the answer is as follows; “Wish there were other options rather than crossing the border. However, under these circumstances, other options don't seem likely".