Turkey is firing a howitzer tank positioned in the border town of Ceylanpinar, Syria, at Kurdish militia positions, as seen in video from Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, Tuesday, October 15.
READ MORE: Turkey's invasion of northern Syria, along with the criticism and threats of sanctions brandished by fellow NATO members at Ankara over the offensive, is close to sparking a crisis at the world's biggest military alliance. So far, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has urged Turkey to show restraint and to be wary of provoking a humanitarian disaster.
But despite the high political-military tensions, it appears unlikely at this point Turkey will be ejected from the 29-member alliance. The large, mainly Muslim country straddles the Bosporus Strait, making it a vital bridge between Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. It's also the only waterway in and out of the Black Sea, where Russia's naval fleet is based. Additionally, Turkey has NATO's second biggest army, after the United States, and keeping the country inside NATO helps keep a lid on Turkey's historic tensions with its neighbor Greece.
Turkey launched its military operation last week to take out Syrian Kurdish forces branded by Ankara as terrorists, but viewed by the West as key partners in the fight against Islamic State. It came days after the White House announced Turkey was moving forward with the operation and that U.S. troops would be withdrawn from the area. The decision to withdraw U.S. troops has been widely criticized by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.