Last week, al Qaida-affiliated Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) militia network increased its control of the city and province of Idlib in northwestern Syria, at the expense of Turkish-backed fighters.
The Turkish government listed HTS as a terror group in August 2018 and last weekend carried out counter-terrorism operations against the group's alleged members in cities throughout Turkey, AFP reported.
Yes, but Abu Muhammad Al Julani, HTS leader, expressed his support for Turkey's military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria. Al Julani is a U.S. government wanted terrorist.
"HTS can not afford losing Idlib despite their in-fights with other groups. The only side that can protect them at this point will be Turkey," says Yousif Ismael from the Washington Kurdish Institute.
If HTS was to succeed and reposition Turkey from nemesis to potential tacit ally, it could make the task of reconquering Idlib harder for the Syrian regime and potentially give an al Qaida-affiliated group a say in Syria's future.
However, a preferred outcome for the Turkish state is for its allied armed groups to retain control of Idlib. The response to HTS' avances toward Turkey would therefore be a fin de non-recevoir.