Demonstration in Afrin (top) to support the
against the Turkish military operation, and demonstration in
(bottom) to support the Turkish military operation in Afrin against the YPG and the YPJ, 19 January 2018.
In the course of the
Syrian Civil War, pro-Assad government forces pulled out of Afrin in the spring of 2012. The
People's Protection Units (YPG) took control of the city soon afterwards.
 Afrin Canton as a
de facto autonomous part was declared on 29 January 2014
 and the territory has virtually been spared from civil war combat, with
ISIS never having attacked the city. Afrin managed to maintain some trust with both the Syrian government and its neighboring rebel groups.
 In February 2016, during the latter part of the
Battle of Aleppo, Syrian government forces cut-off the rebel supply route to Aleppo. Subsequently, the SDF moved east out of Afrin and successfully attacked the rebels, capturing the
Menagh Military Airbase and the town of
Tell Rifaat. In response, Turkish forces shelled SDF positions across the border to protect the rebel-held town of
 In 2017, Russian military troops stationed themselves in Afrin as part of an agreement to protect the YPG from further Turkish attacks.
Turkey had been fighting
PKK and other groups in
eastern Turkey for several decades. The
Kurdish–Turkish conflict is estimated to have cost 40,000 lives. The
Turkish government has publicly stated that it does not recognize a difference between the Syrian
YPG forces and PKK, and claims both are terrorist organizations.
 While the PKK has been designated as a
Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States, the United States' position on the YPG is that it is not a terrorist organization, a stance that has generated much conflict between the two
 Despite this, the
CIA named the
PYD as the "Syrian wing" of the PKK in its
World Factbook on 23 January 2018.
 However, the head of the
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) remarked that "Turkey supports anything that harms the Kurds," and stated that Turkey has consistently been allowing
jihadist fighters to cross the Turkish border into Syria to fight Kurdish forces since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War.
 On 14 February,
Director of National Intelligence described YPG as the Syrian wing of PKK in its new report.
The offensive came amid growing tension between the Turkish and American governments over the latter's support of the
Syrian Democratic Forces, which are made up primarily of Kurdish fighters of the
YPG, which Turkey considers to be a branch of the
PKK. In particular, Turkey objected to announced plans by the US to train and equip a 30,000 strong SDF
border force, which Turkey claimed posed a direct threat to their security. "A country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our borders," Turkish President
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a speech in Ankara. "What can that terror army target but Turkey? Our mission is to strangle it before it's even born."
According to media reports with reference to sources in the Syrian Kurdish leadership, shortly before the Turkish incursion, as an alternative option, Russia proposed that the Kurdish authorities in Afrin recognise the Syrian government′s control in the region; the proposal was rejected at the time.
In the days prior to the offensive, Turkey and the
Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army exchanged artillery fire with YPG militants along the Turkish-Syrian border near Afrin. The YPG shelled the TFSA-held town of Azaz.
 The Turkish state-run
Anadolu Agency reported that Russian military observers in the Afrin area began withdrawing on 19 January 2018 in anticipation of a Turkish offensive on YPG positions in Afrin.
On 12 February, Turkey’s Interior Ministry added former PYD co-leader
Salih Muslim Muhammad to its "wanted terrorists" list along with several new names and offered money for information on his whereabouts.
 On 25 February, Salih Muslim was detained in
Prague at Turkey's request.
 Turkish officials said that Muslim will appear before a court in Prague. Turkish Deputy PM
Bekir Bozdağ said that Turkey is requesting Muslim's extradition.
 However Czech court released Muslim.
 Turkish Deputy PM said this was "a move in support of terror".