Turkish forces and Turkey-backed FSA elements stand at the door of al-Bab, a paramount, if not the ultimate, objective of Operation Euphrates Shield now in its 170th day. With its recent successful breakthrough operations, Operation Euphrates Shield forces have altered the outlook of the battlespace and obtained very advantageous ground for pushing deeper into ISIS-held areas. The al-Bab campaign will now transform into urban operations as predicted in earlier EDAM analysis.
Yet Turkey now faces a significant risk of encountering Syrian Baathist forces on the battlefield, which have marched towards al-Bab from their positions in the south. Whether the opposing forces will act in unison against their common enemy will determine the scale of Turkey’s military exposure in Syria.