Several Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups in Idlib governorate are planning to merge their forces and to establish a unified armed group backed by Turkey soon, the Syrian opposition news outlet Enab Baladi reported on May 12.
According to Enab Baladi, the new Turkish-backed group will be led by the Sham Legion and will include several FSA groups previously backed by the US, including the Free Idlib Army, Jaysh al-Izza, Jaysh al-Nasr and the 1st Coastal Division.
Observers believe that this step is aimed at expanding Turkey’s influence in Idlib governorate to counter the biggest two forces there, the former branch of the al-Qaeda in Syria – Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the Syrian Liberation Front (SLF). Enab Baladi already confirmed that these two forces will not be a part of the new Turkish-back group.
In February, Turkey resumed its financial support to several FSA groups in Idlib governorate, according to Syrian opposition sources. The Sham Legion also received finical and military support from Turkey since the beginning of this year.
Syrian pro-government activists doubted that this Turkish plan will work because most of FSA groups involved in this project are already well-known for their excelling relations with HTS. The Sham Legion itself has used Turkish-supplied weapons to support more than two attacks of HTS against the SAA over the last three months.