Syrian rebel faction Faylaq al-Sham has announced today that it is withdrawing from al-Qaeda’s Army of Conquest, the coalition of Islamist factions which controls Idlib Province, with an eye toward shifting its focus to Aleppo Province.
The indications were that the split was amicable, and Faylaq al-Sham said that they just wanted to focus on fighting the “Shi’ites and Russians” in Aleppo, and were of the opinion that the battle for Idlib Province was already over and won.
Faylaq al-Sham was already seen as one of the more Aleppo-centric members of this coalition, fighting against ISIS in the Aleppo Province in recent months, and formalizing a split allows them to withdraw the last of their Idlib troops into Aleppo.
Unspoken in the statement, but likely also a factor, is that distancing itself from al-Qaeda may bolster the rebel faction’s chances of being invited to the Syria peace process. If that is successful, expect Ahrar al-Sham, another major coalition member, to start distancing itself as well.