Turkey sets up new military alliance in northern Syria
Turkey has brought together around 30 different opposition groups to form what it calls the National Army to fight President Bashar Assad’s government, Islamic State (ISIS) and majority-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), Islamist newspaper Yeni Şafak said.
“The Turkey-backed National Army, or al-Jaysh al-Watani in Arabic, is comprised of more than 30 sub-groups which fought in the provinces of Aleppo, Idlib, Homs, Hama, Raqqa, Hasaka, Deir al-Zor and Latakia, making it the biggest fighting force in Syria since the breakout of the civil war in 2011,” it said.
“The 22,000-strong National army, which was founded by the head of Syria’s Interim Government Jawad Abu Hatab, is set to play a big role in the upcoming Afrin operation” against YPG forces based in an enclave on Turkey’s border, the newspaper said.
Yeni Şafak compared Turkey’s efforts to bring opposition forces together favourably to those of the United States, which it said “carried out dealings with small groups while shunning over 40,000 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters who operated at the highest levels of discipline and professionalism”.
If the effort to bring these groups together succeeds, it could pit Turkey and its new ally once more against Assad and his Iranian and Russian backers.