Extremists within FSA benefitting from Turkish Afrin op

Extreme jihadist groups within the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are benefitting from the Turkish operation against the Kurdish-held Syrian enclave of Afrin, journalist and author Hassan Hassan wrote for Emirati newspaper The National.

“Turkish moves in northern Syria are already strengthening groups that the U.S. seeks to weaken and planting the seeds of a needless civil strife that Washington wants to avoid,” wrote Hassan, the author of a best-selling book on Islamic State. 

“These fighters may be a minority in the fighting forces used by Turkey to launch the assault in Afrin. But there should be no question about the implications of having those fighters engage in a war that primarily serves Turkish interests.”

Jihadists are also attempting to take financial advantage of the redevelopment of other Turkish-occupied areas of Syria, he said.

“Last year, for example, a senior jihadi told this author about jihadi operatives relocating from central and northwestern Syria to the Turkish-protected zone, in anticipation of Turkish plans to rebuild areas captured from ISIL,” Hassan said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

“Similarly, BBC Arabic reported last week that Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, as Jabhat Al Nusra is now known, also attempts to benefit from the flow of arms to Afrin through the involvement of its operatives there.”

Jabhat Al Nusra was affiliated to al Qaeda, before it rebranded as Hayat Tahrir Al Sham a year ago.

Hassan also said, "In the absence of common ground, Turkey’s only available strategy to protect its interests appears to hinge on a Kurdish-Arab civil war in the country. At the same time, Ankara has consistently taken measures that provide space for jihadis as it seeks to advance its national interests."


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