Turkey-backed Syrian forces train in Aleppo as Ankara threatens new offensive
Syrian opposition fighters serving in the Turkish-backed ‘National Army’ held training exercises in the Aleppo countryside on Friday.
Turkish-backed forces, composed of Free Syrian Army forces, Arab and Turkmen militias, and military councils founded in areas of northern Syria controlled by Ankara, participated in the Afrin offensive earlier this year.
Operation Olive Branch saw the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forced out of the Kurdish canton in northwestern Syria in March.
If Turkey launches a new offensive east of the Euphrates, it is likely to again deploy these Syrian proxies to fight the YPG.
The YPG makes up the backbone of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a Kurdish-Arab force which has liberated large areas of northern Syria from ISIS control.
Turkey however considers the YPG an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group fighting for greater Kurdish political and cultural rights in Turkey, which is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU.
Erdogan warned on Wednesday last week he would deploy troops east of the Euphrates to fight the YPG. This is despite the presence of US military personnel supporting the SDF in its operation against ISIS remnants in the Hajin pocket.
In a phone call on Friday, Erdogan and US President Donald Trump agreed to have “more effective coordination” on Syria. Turkish and US forces are already carrying out joint military patrols near SDF-held Manbij on the west bank of the Euphrates.
Photos: Aref Tammawi / AFP