Turkey’s Military Buildup in Syria’s Idlib Province
By: Blane Wallace and the ISW Syria Team
Key Takeaway: The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) deployed roughly a division (over 20,000 soldiers) to Greater Idlib Province between February 1 and March 31, 2020. The deployments include experienced Turkish special forces, armored units, and light infantry (aka "commando") units that participated in prior Turkish operations in Afrin and northeast Syria, including the 5th Commando Brigade, which specializes in paramilitary operations and mountain warfare. These forces established a new front line against pro-Assad regime forces west of the M5 highway, changing the military balance in Idlib and thereby compelling Russian President Vladimir Putin to agree to a new de-escalation deal on March 5. However, Russia and Turkey have already failed to implement key elements of the deal, including joint patrols along the M4 highway. Turkey continues to reinforce its positions in Idlib in preparation for possible resumption of hostilities. This map provides a partial assessment of which types of units Turkey deployed to each location based on publicly available information.
Note: According to the March 5 agreement between President Erdogan and President Putin, the M4 Highway security corridor would be controlled in the north by Turkey and in the south by Russia. A previous version of this map incorrectly depicted the southern part of the M4 Highway security corridor as “Russian controlled.” The updated version of this map accurately depicts this agreement but does not assess that Russia has control of the south and separately shows definitions of the terms “controlled” and “dominated” in the territorial control legend.