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Erdogan Is the Guarantor of the “National Army”

Erdogan Is the Guarantor of the “National Army”

President Erdogan seems to be sure of the factions that he has allied Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) with in Syria.

He even considers the groups known as Free Syrian Army (FSA) as “the true owners of Syria.” He considers the Syrian army as “the real occupiers” and is talking about handing over the territory they take from the terrorists to these groups.

He is so sure of them that he says, “God willing, we will triumph in this operation together with FSA”. He vouches for them so much that he says to Ozturk Yilmaz, CHP Deputy Chair and one-time general consul, who was taken hostage in Mosul Consulate, “You scoundrel. While you are sleeping in your comfortable bed, FSA and our soldiers are obliterating the terrorists that you were supporting.”

It is understandable, however, that Erdogan is standing with his partners. Their relationship is one with troublesome alliances, information and secrets. It is almost impossible to talk against FSA since Operation: Olive Branch began, for fear of being labeled a traitor.

What is keeping us from talking about whom TAF are marching with, and where our actions are likely to lead us? Why would it be an act of treason to talk about the plots against this country? There are many organizations and groups that are taking part in the operation thanks to coordination efforts supplies by TAF and MIT, some of which are:

Nurettin Zenki Brigades, Sukur el Cebel, Samarkand Brigade, Muntasir Billah Brigade, Sultan Murat Division, Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigade, Çelebi al-Shamiyye, Feylak al-Sham, Aladdin al-Sham, Hamza Division.

But who are these groups? I have written about some of them before. For example, Ahrar Al-Sham which is a group Turkey is working very closely with, was established by Al Qaeda members such as Ebu Halid el Suri who was Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Syria. Some of the other groups are associated with Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, an organization responsible for many acts of violence in the 1970s and 80s.

Nureddin Zenki, who stands out in the Cinderes and Seman mountain fronts, had previously been aided by the CIA, and is now acting with Nusra Front, AL Qaeda’s Syrian branch in Tahet Tahrir al-Sham.

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The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), which is said to be supporting the operations in Afrin’s south, is an organization linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. This organization established by the Uyghurs, had preferred to fight on Tahrir al-Sham’s side for the war of  jihadists against  jihadists.

In short, the militia forces operating within Olive Branch are basically former Al Qaeda members, Salafi jihadists, moderate Salafis, political Islamists, moderate Islamists, FSA survivors still calling themselves revolutionaries, warlords, opportunists, adventurous seekers, mercenaries and others under MIT’s  sphere of influence. Some are Sharia-ists, others are extortionists, and they are a mishmash of a group of militias that can’t get along with each other.

The government of Turkey, salutes these groups whom the Syrian government labels as ‘terrorist groups’ as “revolutionaries fighting against a brutal regime.”

Some of these groups have been redesigned according to Turkey’s own national interests under Operation: Euphrates Shield’s framework. And Turkey’s first target in this regard was the ‘democratic autonomy’ under Kurdish leadership.

According to the Anatolia News Agency, TAF started to arm and train some of these groups following the completion of the first phase of Euphrates Shield on March 29, 2017 in camps located close to the Turkish border. One-on-one combat training was given to FSA members who were also trained for mortars, rocket launchers, medium and light machine guns. Then, on December 30, 2017 with the participation of 30 groups forming three corps a “Syrian National Army” was declared. These groups, directed out of the ‘Havar Kilis Operation Room’ on the frontier, use the name ‘National Army’, but they are neither an ‘army’ nor a ‘national power’.

These groups, which in the past were fighting at the same fronts as Al Qaeda (Nusra Front), were not too allied with each other in the areas controlled by Euphrates Shield. They frequently clashed with each other. The cause of their conflict was corruption, theft, and abuse. But  at its core, the real reason was rant competition.

The Nureddin Zenki Brigades came into conflict with Festakim in eastern Aleppo in November 2016. Again, in November 2016, Cephet al-Shamiyye and Sultan Murad clashed at Oncupinar Border Gate. This conflict gave way to Nureddin Zenki and Hashim al-Sham clashing with Cephet al-Shamiyya around Azez. In April 2017, Ahmad Saladin attacked  Ahmad al-Sharq in Kabasin. In the same period, Cephet al-Shamiyye and Sultan Süleyman Shah fought in the north of Aleppo. The fight against Cephet al-Shamiyye soon drew in Sultan Murad, Hamza Division and Sukur el Gebel. In May 2017 the fighting in Cerablus took place between Sultan Murad and Feylak al-Sham against Hagar al-Sharkiya. Concurrently, Cephet al-Shamiyye and Feylak al-Sham clashed in Azez. In May 2017, Cephet al-Shamiyye, Hamza Division and Sultan Murad trio fought against the Fursan Brigade in Azez and Al Rai. In June 2017, Sultan Murad opened a great battle against Ahmad al-Sham in Azez. Allies from both sides were involved in the war. In July, Ahmad Saladin, who refused to support TAF’s attack on Afrin was targeted by other groups. The organization’s leader was captured, tortured and delivered to Turkey.

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Many of these groups are guilty of racist, ethnic and sectarian sanctions, civilian massacres, torture, execution, kidnapping, theft, plunder, abuse and exploitation. Also common to all is their enmity against the Alawites. Hostility against the Kurds is also widespread especially after their opposition to PYD-YPG. Christians did not fare any better either. The last victims of their hostility were the Yezidis of Eli Kino last summer.

Turkey was at the helm militarily, bureaucratically and civilly in the arming and training of these groups during the Syrian crisis. These groups which were initially pushed for a regime change in Syria have been remodeled to fight against PYD-YPG, and they are put on pedestal as heroes.

This is not only a disservice to Syria, but a boomerang to come back and hit Turkey in the not-too-distant future. Why would it be treacherous to see and speak against it?

Originally published in Turkish in

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Sigma Selected

Sigma Selected are independent of the news-gathering side of our organization.

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