nsnbc : The General Staff of Turkey’s Armed Forces announced that it has launched reconnaissance activities in the de-confliction zone established in Syria’s Idlib province. Turkish troops have repeatedly been observed accompanied by Jabhat Tahrir al-Sham and other Islamist terrorist organizations Ankara uses to fight Damascus and contain Kurds
On the official website of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) the General Staff stressed that the deployment of Turkish troops to Syria’s Idlib province for reconnaissance is consistent with agreements reached in Astana.
The statement also reiterated that the Astana process has been initiated under the guarantor countries of Turkey, Russia and Iran in order to maintain the truce regime that was announced in Syria on December 30, 2016. As part of the operation into Idlib, reconnaissance activities started to set up observation points as of October 8.
Reconnaissance troops entered Idlib province on Sunday to assess the situation on the ground before the deployment of additional troops and the establishment of more permanent position. The legal status of the Turkish troops is a sensitive issue. The Syrian government endorses the Astana process but it hasn’t officially given Turkey the right to operate in Syria.
Ankara and Damascus may indeed have converging interests when it comes to armed Kurds in the border region. Damascus, say some analysts, uses a pragmatic approach, ignoring for a while Turkey’s long-standing support of Islamist insurgents in Idlib, to use Turkey as a de-facto ally to contain the PYD and its military wings, the YPG and YPJ.
Speaking to members of Turkey’s ruling AKP, President R. Tayyip Erdogan said “When we don’t go to Syria, Syria comes to us. … If we didn’t take our measures, bombs would fall on our cities.”
However, Turkey’s mission in Idlib is not limited to de-conflicting and to maintaining the ceasefire, as mandated. Turkey insists that it will continue to provide assistance to “rebels it has long backed”.
Idlib province is the most populous Syrian region where Turkish-backed “rebels” as well as the Syrian al-Qaeda franchise Jabhat al-Nusra, Tahrir al-Sham and other gangs still hold major territories.
It is also worth noting that there is a lack of a clear separation between the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other Turkey-backed “rebels” on one hand, and al-Nusra and other Islamist terror hordes on the other.
The fact that Turkey’s objective with the Idlib operation is the containment of Kurds became obvious when Erdogan said “We will never allow a terror corridor that begins in Afrin (Efrin) and goes to the Mediterranean.”
Turkey considers the U.S.-backed PYD and its military wings, the YPG and YPJ as terrorist organizations allied and on par with Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
Tahrir al-Sham, spearheaded by the re-branded Jabhat al-Nusra is clearly the dominant military force in Idlib. Turkey’s support of the Islamist radicals can hardly be hidden. For Ankara the al-Qaeda affiliates are – despite all official denial – Ankara’s spearhead against a Kurdish expansion into Idlib and Latakia provinces.
Local residents report time and time again that Turkish military vehicles enter Idlib and then travel under Tahrir al-Sham escort along a road. In fact, Tahrir al-Sham “rebels” repeatedly boasted about the fact when they released videos and photos showing the grotesque situation in social media.
The large concentration of Islamist insurgents in Idlib province and in part Latakia has been caused by a number of factors. The primary factor is proximity to the Turkish border and Turkey’s sustained support of the armed wing of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood starting in 2011, and a wide variety of other insurgencies including internationally outlawed terrorist organizations since then.
Another contributing factor is that numerous agreements between the conflicting parties in Syria resulted in the withdrawal of al-Nusra and other insurgents from disputed areas in exchange for free passage for insurgents and their families to Idlib.
These agreements included the withdrawal of al-Nusra and allied fighters and families from the city of Aleppo in 2016, and the evacuation of al-Nusra and allied troops and families from the Qalamoun region on the Syrian – Lebanese border to Idlib in 2017.
CH/L – nsnbc 10.10.2017
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