In a surprise move, the National Front for Liberation (NFL) and the National Syrian Army (NSA) merged on October 4 to form a unified armed faction in northern Syria.
The merge was announced by Abdurrahman Mustafa, Prime Minister of the so-called Syrian Interim Government, in a press conference held in the southern Turkish city of Urfa.
Mustafa said that the new body, which will likely retain the title of the NSA, will operate as a regular military and follow the commands of the Interim Government’s Ministry of Defense, which headed by Gen. Salim Idris.
According to Mustafa, the new faction will work to “liberate the country from tyrants, maintain the unity and integrity of Syria’s homeland and defend the coast and the city of Idlib.”
The Turkish-backed NSA was formed in 2017 by factions controlling the Euphrates Shield (ES) region and later the area of Afrin in northern Aleppo. The NFL, which is also receiving support from Turkey, was formed almost a year later by armed groups in Greater Idlib.
The NFL is known to be a close ally of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and other al-Qaeda-affiliated groups. While the NSA presents itself as an opponent of the terrorists, some of its factions had fought alongside HTS earlier this year.
The merge was likely facilitated by Turkey, which is apparently working to separate so-called moderate groups from radicals in Greater Idlib. A step that was agreed upon in the Astana process.