Turkey is planning to withdraw from more military positions in Syria’s north-west province of Idlib, citing the need to avoid “potential risks”.
According to sources who informed the news outlet Middle East Eye, Turkish forces will soon be evacuated from two military positions in the areas of Sienna and Khan Tuman as well an observation post.
The areas are currently under the control of the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, meaning that the withdrawal is primarily for the purpose of eliminating potential risks and strategic vulnerabilities that Turkish forces could face in the event of a renewed offensive by the regime.
One of the sources close to the decision, however, stated that the pull-out was not due to weakness or apprehensiveness, but only “preventive moves. If a new clash emerges in the coming days, these military positions couldn’t be used as leverage by the Syrian regime.”
“There is a large presence in the area of Syrian regime militias, especially the Iranian ones, who aren’t under control,” the sources explained.
The source assured that “We will continue to defend Idlib. We are taking these steps to better protect Idlib,” adding that ceasefire deal with Russia struck back in 2017 for the province to become a de-escalation zone was only a reality on paper.
This withdrawal will be the latest of such moves made by the Turkish military in north-west Syria, in October it pulled out from some key observation posts and bases in Idlib and the province of Aleppo.
Such decisions come as a surprise to many due to the fact that these long-held positions had served as a Turkish negotiation tool and as bases for its military in the region. The reasoning, though, is that they would have difficulty in being defended in a new conflict and have become largely redundant over the past year after the regime made advances.
Since the latest ceasefire deal was struck in March, following the Turkish military’s punishment of Syrian regime forces, a new offensive has been viewed as imminent and inevitable due to the regime’s persistent aim to retake the province from the Turkish-backed opposition.
As Russian air strikes continued and the fighting ensued on the Jabal Al-Zawiya front in contravention of the ceasefire, Turkey has been sending military reinforcements and equipment over its border and into the province for months in anticipation for the renewal of the offensive.