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Norway Follows in US Footsteps, Ready to Deploy Aid to Syrian Rebels

© AP Photo / Matt DunhamSoldiers, Norway
Soldiers, Norway - Sputnik International
The Norwegian parliament has given a surprising go-ahead to send troops to join the international fight against Daesh, but it has already spurred mixed reactions from both the Norwegian public and the political establishment.

Rebel fighters carry their weapons as they walk in Ratian village, north of Aleppo - Sputnik International
Norway to Halt Rebel Aid If Assad Forces Are Attacked
Many believed that the controversial decision to send Norwegian troops to Syria would not be discussed in parliament until Autumn. However, Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide called for "greater progress" in the fight against Daesh."

"Since the very beginning of the fight against Daesh, were already moving into the phase where involvement inside Syria could become relevant," Ine Eriksen Søreide said as quoted by the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang. "We believe that the decision is based on international law and is rooted in a UN resolution from the Security Council," the defense minister said.

The decision to send solders to Syria has already triggered criticism.

"Both the purpose and the intent of strengthening the Norwegian contribution are good. But I strongly doubt that our strategy proves thoughtful enough in the long run, and also that it will help to combat Daesh otherwise than short-term," Bård Vegar Solhjell of the Socialist Left Party told Verdens Gang. "The western forces had all but brief military progress both in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. But the problem in all the three locations was that it lacked a long-term strategy with a clear goal. I fear that we have not got one this time either," Solhjell said.

Norwegian military - Sputnik International
Ten-Hut! Norway All Set to Become US Watchdog in the North
The 60 man strong Norwegian force will be temporarily deployed in Jordan, only to be moved to Syria at a later juncture. The forces, which will undergo Norwegian training, are scheduled to become part of the New Syria Army (NSyA), also known by its Arabic name: Jaish Suriya al-Jadid. The group was founded in November 2015 and reportedly consists of "several hundred" Sunni Syrians. NSyA claim to stand apart from other insurgents in that they officially only fight against Daesh, but not the Assad government.

Previously, the job that Norwegian troops will do was carried out by US Special Forces with little success. Over 500 million dollars were allocated for the training of Syrian rebels in Jordan. In the end, only around a hundred "moderate" rebels were trained, the majority of which later switched sides and joined the struggle against the Syrian regime. Now, there are growing concerns that Norway's rebel training may set the country on a collision course with Russia.

"Norway is one of very few NATO countries that have a common border with Russia. To end up in direct confrontation with Russia in Syria will have very different consequences for Norway than it would for, say, Denmark or the UK, Middle East researcher Cecilie Helltveit pointed out.

Finally, Norway's decision to send troops to Syria without permission was slammed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"Such a decision represents a gross and unacceptable interference in the affairs of the state, and is a shameless violation of sovereignty, security and stability," a statement from the Syrian Foreign Ministry said.

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