04 February 2018 07:54

8 questions that await answers in relation to Free Syrian Army (FSA)

Apart from defining 'Syria’s territorial integrity' as 'being against Syrian Kurdish groups' it is right to say that this definition is unclear.

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Hediye LEVENT

There are claims that before the Afrin operation began, there were negotiations between Russia, Syria and Kurds in which “Turkey’s operations into Afrin could be prevented if some regions including Afrin were handed back to the Syrian regime’s control”. It is important to remember that the Kurds did not accept completely handing back to the Syrian regime, they only accepted allowing a small group of Syrian army officers into Afrin and once the negotiation collapsed the operation began. Nevertheless according Damascus, the jihadi groups in Idlib and the Free Syrian Army which Turkey are working together with in the Afrin operation are terrorist groups. 

From Russia’s point of view, Syria’s territorial integrity is crucial in terms of its existence in the region. As USA’s role deepens, the relationship between the Kurds and USA becomes discomforting but still Kurds are Syria’s domestic issue. Russia doesn’t view Free Syrian Army which Turkey works together with as critically as Damascus does, but it does view the groups in Idlib as terrorist and it doesn’t seem like it will compromise on this. 

For Turkey, apart from defining “Syria’s territorial integrity” as “being against Syrian Kurdish groups” it is right to say that this definition is mostly unclear. 

On the one hand they accuse the current Syrian leader with being a terrorist and refer to the Syrian army as “Assad’s forces”, even though it has a commander in chief, with a clear military headquarter, regularly paid (force) and a chain of command which clearly works. In contrast, (those groups) who are unable to show any existence on the battlefield and are a cover up for the groups who are an extension of Al-Qaeda or who have had links to jihadi groups over the years are referred to, in total, as the Free Syrian “Army”, even though they constantly change military general, who mostly live in Turkey, occasionally “go to visit Syria” and regularly restructure.

Linking the Free Syrian Army to the national millitia forces (which is called Kuvayi Milliye) formed during the Independence War, the actions of an alleged command officer who had a Free Syrian Army “flag” around his shoulders and a force commander who is in the same photo, will likely to cause problems for Turkey in the long run.    

Even if they currently benefit Turkey, to be so close to the dubious Free Syrian Army and or even by drawing a table illustrating who owns these groups can lead to Turkey being held liable for their actions.
Of course, we do not expect to receive the answers but let us still ask our questions:

What is the battle capacity of the groups acting together with the Turkish Armed Forces? Did they receive military training? If training was given, why and how did the Turkish Armed Forces train groups whilst emphasizing the "territorial integrity of Syria" and at a time when Damascus refers to them as terrorists?

Has there been an investigation to crimes committed by these groups in Syria before they were included in the (Afrin) operation?
Where were these groups until the operation started? If they were in Turkey, where were they and under what status did they reside in the country?

If they take commands from the Turkish Armd Forces, to which commandership do they report to and under what position? It is said that they are“working in coordination” with the Turkish Armed Forces, however for some reason the commander of the Free Syrian Army is nowhere to be seen, we don’t even know their name. 

If they take orders from the Turkish Armed Forces, what is the chain of command and what sort of position do they have? Let’s put aside the crimes these groups have committed in the past, what assurance is there that the Turkish Armed Forces will not be responsible for crimes committed by these groups during the course of the current operation and after the Turkish Armed Forces pull out. 
Are there losses as a result of these groups involvement during the operations or can they be sanctioned if they disobey orders?

Are these groups being paid and if so, from what budget? With what and how does the Free Syrian Army sustain itself? From where are the weapons, vehicles, logistics, and military supplies being procured and who finances this? Is there a record of the weapons used byFree Syrian Army? Will these weapons be collected in the coming period? It should also be remembered that the weapons provided to these groups during the US training period werealso sold to the jihadist groups. 
Lets put to one side that some of these fighters who are jihadists or those that collaborated with such groups can freely move around in Turkey, would it not  threaten Turkey’s security and intelligence bodies by having these these groups working so closely to the Turkish Armed Forces during the operation? 

Summary translation by: Cem Erol