Turkey Has Evacuated Every Last Military Outpost Encircled by the Syrian Army
Had served as little more than hostages for Syria
More background: Coverage of 2019-2020 Idlib offensive
Early this year seven Turkish military outposts in NW Syria found themselves deep in government-held territory.
Turkey had erected these bases on the rebel-government frontline to deter and obstruct Syrian offensives against the Qaeda-led Islamist rebels.
Nonetheless, a successful Syrian-Russian offensive was launched in December 2019 leading to a direct and active Turkish military intervention on the Qaeda side, and about 80 Turkish KIA in Syria including in one devastating air strike that was possibly delivered by the Russians.
The relative success of the offensive meant that majority of the Turkish outposts found themselves surrounded (unlike the troops the Turks poured in after the Syrian-Russian offensive had kicked off, the outpost troops did not take part in the fighting and were left unmolested).
Another Turkish outpost near a town called Morek had by then already been surrounded for 6 months since the summer of 2019. It was the Morek base that came to be surrounded in similar circumstances that established a precedent to how the sides would navigate the situation. (Despite the bravado the Turks would not actually join the fighting and would not be fired upon in turn.)
Thus Erdogan was left with eight bases in total that were of no military value whatsoever, but were purely liabilities, at the mercy of the Syrians, and could be supplied only thanks to a deal with the Russians and with Russian escort.
Nonetheless, he declined to abandon them purely for optical reasons.
Until October when Morek was evacuated 14 months after it had served to cease any function other than to provide Syria with useful potential hostages.
Since then the Turks gradually moved out of all the other bases as well, so that as of this week there are none left.
Despite vowing to never abandon them Erdogan was always going to withdraw eventually.
The victory of Turkish-backed Azerbaijan against Armenia in Karabakh presented an especially opportune moment for him to do it.