Azerbaijan’s anti-terrorist campaign to ensure regional security
    Stamping out separatists

    ANALYTICS  20 September 2023 - 14:51

    Analytics Department Caliber.Az

    Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has stated that they accepted the appeal of the Armenian population of Garabagh to cease military actions to prevent human casualties. As a result, the military operations halted as of 13:00, September 20 under the terms of Baku to lay down arms and surrender to Azerbaijani forces. This seemed as a full victory of Azerbaijan after the one-day-long anti-terrorist operation.

    On September 19, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces launched a local anti-terrorist operation in the Garabagh region in an attempt to destroy the remnants of illegal Armenian armed groups after they refused to dissolve and surrender voluntarily.

    The fragile situation in Garabagh between Azerbaijan and the de-facto separatist regime heightened in the last few months, with both sides moving troops across the region. Recently, Azerbaijan increased its pressure on Khankendi, demanding the quick disarming of armed groups and re-integration of the ethnic Armenian population.

    The trigger point for military actions became the anti-tank mine explosion in the Khojavand district that killed two civilian workers and four police officers. According to the official statement of the local authorities, those landmines were planted after the area was cleared as an act of provocation against Azerbaijan.

    Shortly after this, Azerbaijani forces deployed high-precise weaponry, including combat drones and Air Forces, to hit Armenian targets in Karabakh. As Azerbaijani forces move forward, no help appeared to be forthcoming from the West, Russia, and even the region's long-time sponsor, Armenia.

    Reportedly, Azerbaijani forces conducted artillery attacks against Armenian military outposts near Khankendi and other districts. In order to diffuse possible criticism and anti-Azerbaijani rhetoric, the authorities said that they informed the Armenian population about the upcoming military operation through text messages.

    Moreover, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense unveiled video footage of exclusively hitting military targets, communication lines, and firing points, which are considered legitimate targets.

    Azerbaijan described its lightning operation as anti-terrorist activities of a limited character, designed to eliminate the fighting capabilities of the region’s defenders using “precision strikes.” Armenia’s foreign ministry described it as a “mass-scale aggression” that portends “ethnic cleansing” of the region’s Armenian population.

    As expected, shortly after military actions unfolded, the reaction followed from international actors mainly demanding that Baku halt the operation and "escape human casualties". However, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev reiterated that the operation will continue until all remnants of the Armenian groups are neutralized, disarmed, and dissolved.

    In this vein, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, to exchange views on the current situation in the Garabagh region. President Aliyev told Secretary Blinken that reconnaissance and sabotage groups of units of the Armenian Armed Forces in the Garabagh region of Azerbaijan had previously laid mines for terrorist purposes.

    According to the MoD reports, During the events, more than 60 combat positions of formations of the Armed Forces of Armenia came under the control of our Armed Forces. At the same time, more than 20 military vehicles, more than 40 artillery installations, over 30 mortars, two anti-aircraft missile launchers, more than 6 Mortar electronic warfare stations and other military equipment belonging to the Armenian Armed Forces were neutralized.

    Considering mounting losses and limited capacity to resist, the de-facto regime appealed to Azerbaijan to start peace negotiations to avoid further casualties. Despite the Azerbaijani government's attempts to hold a face-to-face meeting with Garabagh Armenians several times, they cancelled it last time.

    This time, Baku also agreed to meet the Armenian community in Yevlakh city, but with the pre-condition that illegal armed groups would be dissolved immediately. Although the de-facto separatist regime did not respond to this demand, the prospects for long-term Armenian resistance seem less likely. Hence, Garabagh now seems isolated and alone.

    Azerbaijani perspective suggests that the stalemate in the peace negotiations with Armenia and the reluctance of the de-facto regime to dissolve illegal entities left no choice but to intervene militarily to defend its territorial dignity. Therefore, the international condemnation of Azerbaijan will yield little result, though it will increase pressure on official Baku in the West.

    Although Azerbaijan will keep conducting military operations in the region, it will not shut the diplomacy door. Also, it is unlikely that the military operation will last for a few months or weeks, as it would increase the number of human casualties among Azerbaijani and Armenian civilians.

    Attempts to find a diplomatic solution never got much traction over the intervening decades, with Azerbaijan insisting on the return of its territories. Undoubtedly, Azerbaijan blames Russia for failing to disarm Armenian fighters in Karabakh under the terms of its 2020 peacekeeping mandate. Notably, after one day of military action, Baku achieved its main goal of dismantling the armed groups of the Armenians and the de-facto regime in Khankendi.


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