Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) has announced a formation of the Hama Army, a new operation room that includes several units defected from Ahrar al-Sham, a unit from Jund al-Sham and another one from Ajnad al-Sham. The Hama Army pledged allegiance to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) indicating the continuing collapse of any opposition to the al-Qaeda-linked group in the militant-held part of western Syria.
HTS is working to consolidate the power in Idlib in order to establish a unified political and military command over the rest of militant groups operating in the area. If this is done prior to the defeat of ISIS in central Syria, HTS-led forces will be able to delay significantly the SAA effort against ISIS with offensives on government held area in northern Hama, western Aleppo or at the Ithriyah-Aleppo highway. HTS’ aim is to prevent collapse of ISIS that would lead to the situation when the terrorist group and its allies could remain face to face with the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance in this part of Syria.
The similar strategy was repeatedly used during the previous years of the war when the so-called opposition was attacking the SAA in the most complicated moments of its operations against ISIS.