Monday, February 20, 2017
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Is Ahrar Sham Merely a Turkish-Qatari Proxy Force?

After months of negotiations, approximately 10 days ago, an agreement including the major factions in northern Syria was signed to finally merge into one military and political entity. It was a deal that included both Jabha Fath Sham and Ahrar Sham, and others. The new leader of Ahrar Abu Ammar Al Omar signed the deal on behalf of his group. All that was left was for the deal to be announced.
Ahrar did not feel comfortable allowing JFS leader Abu Muhammad Jawlani to lead the new unified group due to it’s former Al Qaida offiliation. Jawlani stated that he was willing to not assume the leadership role and was thereby given the millitary affairs portfolio in the deal and Ahrar Sham’s new leader, Abu Ammar, was to head the entire opposition unified force.
Then suddenly, Ahrar Sham pulled out of the arrangement citing that their shura council could not agree. This in spite of the fact the group leader signed the deal. It left the other groups in chaos. Ahrar Sham had been adamant that if there were to be a merger with Jabha Fath Sham, then they would have to split with Al Qaida. They cited that the only thing which was stopping the merger, for the good of the Syrian revolution, was the Al Qaida link. Then several months ago, Jabha Fath Sham officially severed ties with their former parent organization. However, Ahrar Sham has continued to resist the merger which has left many groups and Syrians in general wondering on behalf of who does Ahrar actually operate?
Ahrar has lost much of the trust of the Syrian people in recent times. In the areas of Bab Al Hawa, angry residents smashed Ahrar checkpoints because the group refused to participate in the attempt to break the siege imposed upon Aleppo in the days just before residents were ushered out. Ahrar stated that they have internal issues and could not participate. It was a time when thousands of hungry, cold, and displaced Muslims were looking for any helping hand. Jabha Fath Sham prepared their weaponry and personell for the fight. However, Ahrar did not show up. Ultimately the attempt was not successful however it left Syrians wondering if the leadership of Ahrar seems to have loyalties elsewhere. At that time the group was participating in the Euphrates Shield operation that was backed heavily by Turkish armour and troops. The mission objective was to clean out the border areas of ISIS millitiamen and secure the Turkish border.
As of last night a document has surfaced showing that there has been a new merger of sorts between the following groups:
Ahrar Sham Jaysh Islam Ajnad Sham Suqour Sham
Jabha Shamiyya Fastaqim Faylaq Ar Rahman Faylaq Sham
Jabha Ahlusham
This is a Turkish-Qatar initiative that, as you may have noticed, excludes Jabha Fath Sham. Strangely, over the past week there have been several high level assasinations of JFS commanders around Syria. While there is absolutely no evidence to suggest Ahrar leadership had any prior knowledge of the stepped up campaign against their snubbed counterpart, the manner in which the new merger was carried out has left Syrians who were excited to finally have a single unified fighting force soured on the group.
At the time of the writting of this article OGN has yet to be able to obtain a copy of the ceasefire agreement that Ahrar officials participated in with Turkish and Russian negotiators. Regime officials say that the ceasefire deal doesn’t include JFS. Opposition officials state that they are a part of the deal. Without an actual copy of the agreed upon signed arrangement, it is impossible to tell which side is actually telling the truth. However, it is clear that JFS has been targeted by drone attacks, regime airstrikes, and assasination attempts by way of car bombs all since the ceasefire deal was signed just a short while ago.
With a culture of non transparency that is rampant amongst the different rebel factions it is difficult to prosecute or defend Ahrar in the court of public appeal. However one thing is certain. Ahrar Sham no longer seems to hold much of the love, respect, and most importantly the trust the Syrian people once had for them.

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