On 21 January 2018, Turkish ground forces supported by Syrian militias launched an intervention in the northwestern Syrian region around Afrin. Operation Olive Branch is directed against the American-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which the Turkish leadership considers equivalent to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The offensive opens a new line of conflict in a region of Syria recently marked by relative calm. In case the military engagement is to be extended to the region around Manbij, as was announced by President Erdoğan, incidental confrontations between Turkish and American units are possible.

“Operation Olive Branch negatively affects the safety of travellers in Turkey.”

Security Impact in Turkey

During the first days of Operation Olive Branch, several rocket attacks caused casualties on Turkish territory near the border with Syria. Across Turkey, including in cities, business travellers and expatriates are exposed to an increased risk of retaliatory attacks by Kurdish militant groups. Furthermore, violent clashes during street protests across Turkey could affect bystanders. Since the government announced harsh reactions against any criticism of the new military engagement, foreigners in Turkey are subject to an aggravated risk of arrests under allegations of terrorist propaganda.

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