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'National Army' of FSA Fighters Could be an 'Umbrella' for Terrorists in Syria

© AFP 2021 / BARAA AL-HALABI Rebel fighters from the "First Battalion" under the Free Syrian Army take part in a military training on June 10, 2015, in the rebel-held countryside of the northern city of Aleppo
Rebel fighters from the First Battalion under the Free Syrian Army take part in a military training on June 10, 2015, in the rebel-held countryside of the northern city of Aleppo - Sputnik International
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During his visit to the recent UN General Assembly in New York, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for the creation of a "national army" of so-called moderate rebel fighters.

A member of Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) patrols in the border town of Jarablus, Syria - Sputnik International
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According to Erdogan, this new entity would maintain security in a no-fly zone in Syria. Ankara has insisted on a no-fly zone in Syria for over a year. However, all proposals have been rejected by the international community.

The president added that there were some 65,000 fighters that could be involved in the initiative.

Political observer Mehmet Ali Guller commented to Sputnik on Erdogan’s proposal, saying that a "national army" made of Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters could be used as an "umbrella" for terrorist groups in Syria.

"Syria has its own armed forces. So the initiative to create a second 'national army' would mean an attempt to divide the country. This assumption contradicts with previous Ankara’s statement that the Euphrates Shield military operation is aimed at preserving Syria’s territorial integrity," he pointed out.

Ankara launched a military offensive in northern Syria on August 24. Dubbed Euphrates Shield, the operation is meant to push Daesh out of the border region and prevent Kurdish forces from advancing further west.

Erdogan and his supporters have been concerned that Syrian Kurds could establish an autonomous region in the area, fueling unrest in Turkey that has struggled to tackle the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and other militant Kurdish groups.

Guller suggested that from the start the Turkish operation in Syria has had more than one goal.

"The Turkish government is playing a double game in Syria. On the one hand, the idea of a 'national army' could be connected with Ankara’s attempt to prevent a Kurdish corridor. On the other hand, it looks like part of Turkey’s strategy to topple [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and take control over part of the Syrian territory by uniting anti-Assad terrorist forces. The Euphrates Shield operation combines these two goals," he suggested.

A fighter from the Kurdish People Protection Unit (YPG) poses for a photo at sunset in the Syrian town of Ain Issi, some 50 kilometres north of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State (IS) group during clashes between IS group jihadists and YPG fighters on July 10, 2015 - Sputnik International
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Prior to the operation, Turkey normalized ties with Russia and Israel. This allowed for "bargaining" with the United States over an operation in Mosul and Raqqa, he added.

Erdogan is pursuing this strategy to strengthen his position and consolidate power.

"The Turkish government says it wants normalization with Syria but continues anti-Assad rhetoric. Ankara has repeatedly insisted that the Syrian settlement is possible only if Assad goes. This proves that the Turkish operation in Syria has several goals at the same time," Guller concluded.

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