Friday, June 2, 2017

Turkey Forms New Army in Syria: Goals and Prospects, by Mehmet Ersoy

On Tuesday, May 30, Inside Syria media center wrote that Ankara was creating a new formation of the fractured units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Turkey used to view the FSA as its trump card in Syria – the militants should have opposed the Syrian troops, fight ISIS and, what’s most important for Ankara, confront the Kurds who still keep gaining control over territories along the Syria-Turkey border.

Obviously, the Turkish plan failed. At the start of the Euphrates Shield operation, Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly claimed that the main objective was to bar the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from securing Manbij and prevent them from taking the role of the main U.S. ally in the Raqqa offensive. 

None of these was achieved: Kurdish units not only completely liberated Manbij but also advanced even further to the west of the town while Washington in its turn increased its arms supplies for the SDF and cut off its support for the FSA.

The main responsibility for the failed operation bear the militants of the Free Syrian Army, which was hardly effective during the Euphrates Shield. According to a BBC journalist Quentin Sommerville, some three months of the battle for Al-Bab resulted in the death of almost 500 FSA militants, who were backed by Turkish tanks, APCs and artillery.

After the operation, the ‘army’ is in a sorry state. According to Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, the former general manager of Al-Arabiya news channel, it is disintegrated into small groups.

Identical views are expressed in the Turkish channel TRT’s report on the forming so-called ‘National Army’. Its goals will be the same as the ones of the fractured FSA. Turkey seems to be changing the name of the militant forces it backs, following the example of al-Nusra also known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham or, since January 2017, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Changing titles didn’t lead to any real changes, as we know.

Obviously, Ankara is attempting to preserve its fading influence in Syria. However, Turkish politicians will likely walk into the same wall and repeat the same mistakes again and again while Syria and its allies are decisively solving the crisis.