On February 16, three unnamed sources revealed to the Syrian pro-opposition news outlet Enab Baladi that Turkey had resumed its financial support to groups of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Ahrar al-Sham Movement in northern Syria. The Turkish aid will replace the US support program that was halted on December 18, 2017.
Enab Baladi said that the former branch of al-Qaeda in Syria, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), will not receive the Turkish assistance. However, the support program includes several key allies of HTS, including Jaysh al-Nasir, Jaysh al-Izza. Furthermore, Ahrar al-Sham is also desginated a terrorist organization by many US allies including the UAE.
According to Enab Baladi, Turkey wants the FSA groups to divide its military activates between the Afrin area and Idlib governorate in exchange for the support that it will provide. However, a source told Enab Baladi that Turkey didn’t set such condition, but only encouraged the FSA to engage in the ongoing battle in Afrin.
Over the last four years, FSA groups in northern Syria have used all the support they have received from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US to attack the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). They have even shared a big part of this support with HTS.
Syrian experts expect that this time most of the Turkish support will also find its way to HTS and will be mainly used to launch yet another attack against the SAA in southern Idlib or northern Hama.
According to reprots, a majort part of the Turkish support will go to the so-called “Rad al-Ghuzat” operations room, which was formed by several FSA groups and the Ahrar al-Sham Movement on February 3. These groups clearly said in the their first official statement that their only goal is to “conduct defensive and offensive operations” against the SAA.