Turkish general says al-Bab operation ‘finished’

Hulusi Akar, Chief of General Staff of Turkish Armed Force.

According to Turkish daily, Sabah, known for its close ties with Turkish president Erdogan, the Turkish Chief of General Staff, Hulusi Akar, told reporters in Qatar that the al-Bab operation had finished.

Akar was talking to reporters about the latest situation in al-Bab when he said, “congratulations to all of us, the al-Bab operation is finished”. The general said that two large booby traps were being disposed of and that the area was being thoroughly checked over.

In the past weeks President Erdogan and other Turkish politicians had mentioned that the al-Bab offensive was nearing an end. However, according to reports from from the town the Islamic State (IS) group is retaking some of the positions it had previously lost to Turkish troops and their allies.

As recent as yesterday (15 February) the Turkish army announced that IS had attacked Turkish army positions with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), killing eight Free Syrian Army fighters.

A conflicting report also came from the war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Wednesday, which said that al-Bab was still “almost entirely” under IS control.

Turkey’s al-Bab assault, as part of its Euphrates Shield operation in the north of Syria, started on 9 December last year. Turkey had entered Syria from Jarablus 15 weeks before, on 24 August.

Hulusi Akar’s statement is in need of both clarification and verification in terms of what he means by the “operation is finished” and if al-Bab has actually been cleared of Islamic State fighters.