There are several reasons that can explain the infighting between factions of the Turkey-backed opposition Syrian National Army (SNA) in northern Syria, despite signs of security turmoil in these areas.
Regardless of the immediate causes of the recent clashes, the infighting demonstrates that the Syrian National Army has a weak presence in the region. It also shows fragmentation within the forces, as well as the difficulty of carrying out any real combat missions. The latter has become especially true as security conditions have deteriorated in the areas where the national army is located.
It is difficult to expect that the SNA can make any attempt to expand towards the terrorist-controlled areas held by Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), given that preventing any terrorist influence there is difficult to achieve. At the same time, the national army has no local capability on the ground, and could face destruction by launching a military operation against areas in northeastern Syria — an operation that Turkey has called for and threatened the Kurdish-majority SDF with.
The real reasons
Abdullah Suhaib, the National Front for Liberation’s field commander, told al-Hal Net that one of the most important reasons for the continued infighting within the SNA is a lack of accountability, as well as the unwillingness and inability of military commanders to control armed factions.
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The unsettled situation has been reinforced by the lack of a judicial process and judicial claims, which flow from the SNA’s association with armed factions.
According to Suhaib, the Ministry of Defense has proven ineffective in the coalition’s interim opposition governments as an umbrella institution for military forces. Instead, factionalism remains rife in the military forces.
Accordingly, the absence of a strong and unified military force will lead to continued infighting and weaken the SNA’s presence and role in any military project in the region.
Nazir Hariri, an analyst on Syrian affairs, said that the continued infighting and public perception will lead to conclusions that reinforce the loss of confidence in the SNA by the local communities.
Hariri told al-Hal Net that growing factionalism reiterates the SNA’s inability to succeed in upcoming battles without [support from] foreign armies, such as the Turkish army.
Turkey, with its lack of a clear vision for the region’s future at all levels— be they legal, service, military, or political — seems to have further contributed to the instability.
Internationally, the SNA’s has attracted a stereotype of its fighters becoming mercenaries, who are exploited by Turkey in its foreign wars in countries like Libya and Azerbaijan.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.