UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Syrian National Army (SNA)

Turkish troops and the newly-regrouped Syrian National Army (SNA) [al-Jayš al-Watani as-Suri, Suriye Millî Ordusu], previously known as the Free Syrian Army, began Operation Peace Spring in northeastern Syria, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on 09 October 2019. Tens of thousands of Syrian fighters were mobilised to take part in the October 2019 Turkish offensive against PKK/YPG militants in Syria. The Syrian fighters, most of them from northwestern areas backed by Turkey since previous offensives in 2016 and 2018, were gathered in a former refugee camp in the Turkish border town of Akcakale. They belong to SNA, a coalition of groups backed by Ankara, which is now regrouped as the Syrian National Army. At least 18,000 fighters were due to participate in the first stage of the Turkish offensive. More than 8,000 would target the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad and 10,000 the town of Ras al Ayn, Dadeh told journalists in Akcakale. An undetermined number of additional fighters were also expected to be mobilised for an assault on Kobane.

Youssef Hammoud, a spokesman for the SNA, told pro-opposition media in Syria that rebel fighters have been positioned for days near Syrian towns that the Turkish military intends to capture in its ongoing offensive. Salim Idris, an SNA commander, said 07 October 2019 in a press conference in Turkey that his group "is standing in strength, resolve and support with our Turkish brethren in Turkey" in their military operation into Syria.

While Turkish Special Forces are leading the assault, nearly 14,000 Syrian rebels are supporting the operation, which is expected to target Kurdish fighters in at least three locations in northeast Syria, experts said. "Some of the rebels have been deployed on the border from the Turkish side, and others already have begun entering parts of northeast Syria," said Ahmed Rahal, a former Syrian military general who is now a military analyst based in Istanbul.

By early October 2019 the 1st and 2nd Corps were ready to cross the border from Akçakale opposite Tel Abyad and the 3rd Corps from Ceylanpinar across Raselayn. However, only 14,000 of these 40,000 fighters have now been transferred to the border area. Groups such as Sultan Murad Division, al-Hamzat Division, Ahrar al-Sharqiya and several smaller factions would play a major role in capturing towns under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a military alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters. The Sultan Murad Division was established in 2013. Experts say it has been receiving direct financial, military and logistic support from the Turkish military. Most of its fighters are ethnic Turkmen. It was primarily based in the Syrian city of Aleppo before Syrian regime troops retook the city in 2016. The Hamzat Division, founded in April 2016 in Turkey, was one of the first Turkish-backed Syrian groups that entered the Syrian town of Jarablus in 2017 alongside the Turkish military. The Ahrar al-Sharqiya group, founded in 2016, comprises mostly of fighters from the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. Some of its fighters are former members of the powerful Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham.

In Syria, the peaceful protests that began in March 2011 evolved into conflicts as a result of the violent intervention of the Assad regime, which led to the separation of pro-exchange officers from the army as of the end of the year. Former regime soldiers, who came together to protect the opposition masses, announced that they would act focused on the "defense war". This formation, which became the local defense forces, later described itself as the Free Syrian Army. The FSA formed a legitimate military backbone of the opposition with the Syrian flag, which added another star, and was positioned as the military wing of the Syrian Provisional Government established in March 2013. FSA, which became active in most of the country until 2015, fought on the fronts of Aleppo-Idlib, Raqqa-Deyrizor-Haseke, Hama-Latakia, Homs, Damascus-Dera-Kuneytra-Suveyda. The support of the Russian and Iranian-backed foreign terrorist groups to the Bashar Assad regime caused the FSA to lose strength on all fronts in 2016.

Prior to the Operation of the Olive Branch, 30 groups affiliated to the FSA in the north of Aleppo united under the name of National Army on 30 December 2017. On May 28, 2018, 11 groups of Idlib origin outside this area came together under the name of the "National Liberation Front". On October 4, the two units were gathered under the name of the National Army and were connected to the Ministry of Defense of the Syrian Provisional Government.

By August 2018 Turkey was helping to establish a so-called ‘national army’ made up of Syrian rebels in an effort to thwart any strategic gains by President Bashar al-Assad in the war-torn country’s north. The initiative was part of wider long-term plan by the Turkish-supported opposition to cling on to a swath of territory in the northwest, which constituted the last opposition stronghold standing. According to reports, the force was determined to present itself as a legitimate authority, so it ordered its rank-and-file to don unique military garb, comply with a newly formed military police, as well as cease affiliation with any sub-group outside of the army’s structure.

The army was made up of about 35,000 fighters from various Syrian rebel groups. It is not yet clear whether this includes Salafist Jihadist elements such Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. Turkish support for the group included the regular payment of salaries, as well as the setting up of 12 military outposts, concentrated in the northern province of Idlib. Ankara reportedly also invested in local infrastructure, including the building of local schools.

The leader of the rebel coalition, Colonel Haitham Afisi had been quoted as listing the three main enemies of his ‘army’: President Bashar al-Assad, Daesh* and the Turkish Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). It was believed that Turkey’s support for the nascent group stems largely from its opposition to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit’s (YPG), which it saw as an extension of the PKK, whom have waged an intermittent campaign of guerrilla warfare inside Turkey since the late 1970s.

President Assad’s next military campaign was the retaking of Idlib province, where the Turkish-backed ‘national army’ had a number of outposts and where a number of heavily armed Jihadists operated.

The National Army was established in Akçakale on 4 October 2018 with the gathering of different armed groups fighting under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army since the beginning of the Syrian war in 2011. National Liberation Front and the Syrian National Army under the name of the two groups united and connected to the Syrian Provisional Government of the new "National Army".

The commanders of the Syrian National Army, which was created for this purpose in December 2017 and played an important role in the operation of Afrin, met with the commanders of the groups in Idlib in Akçakale district of Sanliurfa on October 4. The armed groups united here and this time took the name, "National Army" (Ceysül Vatani). At the head of the National Army is Selim Idris, the commander of the Free Syrian Army, which has a more integrated structure during the early years of the Syrian war, and has close relations with Ankara.

The scattered armed groups under the Free Syrian Army, before the Euphrates Shield Operation and the Afrin operation covering the triangle of Jarablus-Cobanbey-El Bab, were transformed into a regular army that would be able to act together with the Turkish Armed Forces; they had come together under new names. The aim was to prevent disagreements between different groups, to prevent possible conflicts and to make the transition to a more professional army. Thus, it would be easier to work under the command and command of the Turkish Armed Forces [TAF].

After the operationsin Afrin and the Euphrates Shield region three corps continued to serve as"police force". The corps consisted of 40,000 fighters in total. The 4 corps in the Idlib region consist of about 70,000 people. The groups that united to form the National Army are all of the corps in Afrin and Euphrates Shield and some of those in Idlib. That is, the number is 110 thousand at most. There is no official information or explanation about the total number. Public broadcaster TRT, the number is 60 thousand. However, one of the commanders of the National Army, who provided information to the BBC Turkish, said that the groups in Idlib, who did not participate in the meeting on 4 October 2018, would support from the West if the scope of the operation expanded even if it did not come together under the roof of the National Army.

These groups are led by the Sultan Murat and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigades, the majority of which are Syrian Turkmens, and Hamza Brigades and Muntasir Billah Group, which fought on the front line during the Operation Euphrates Shield, which the CIA continued to support until the summer of 2017. Conducted jointly by the US and Turkey but a short time "train-equip" project, training and weapons supplied Hamza Brigade with Muntasir Billah fighters, Euphrates Shield and east of the Euphrates, as in Afrin also taking place in the foreground. However, the two groups no longer had any connection with the United States in terms of technique or leadership.

The leading groups in the 1st Corps from Afrin and Euphrates Shield region are Ahrar Sarkiye, Ceysül Sarkiye, 1st Firka, Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigade and Muntasir Billah Brigades. There are Sultan Murat and Hamza Brigades in the 2nd Corps, which also comes from the same region. The 3rd Corps includes Cephetül Samiyye, Ceysül Nasir and 9th Division with more than one small group.

Within the National Army, there is also a Kurdish armed group of Kurdish fighters who have fled from the region by reacting to the presence of YPG in the east of the Euphrates, along with Kurdish fighters from the Syrian National Army, which was established earlier. The Kurdish Falcons consist of about 350 fighters.

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Corps fought on the front lines of the Euphrates Shield and Afrin operations, which started in August 2016 and thereafter in January 2018. During that period, Gaziantep and Hatay stationing fighters, starting from Jarabulus after the operation, Azez and settled from Afrin continued from El Babu region extending from the border of Turkey and the Turkish authorities' internal security unit "as he calls the" police power ", he participated in.

In the post-operative period, small-scale conflicts emerged from time to time among the groups responsible for ensuring security in the region with the TAF. They were responsible for the capture of ISIS people who had infiltrated the region after the Euphrates Shield operation against ISIS and kept them in prison in Jarablus. In Afrin, which was fought with YPG, it was claimed that they ransacked the houses and harmed the civilians after the operation. Ankara, the investigation was launched about these issues.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 12-10-2019 17:32:25 ZULU