Turkey-Backed Rebels Will Struggle to Hold Vast Border Zone

Turkey-Backed Rebels Will Struggle to Hold Vast Border Zone | Group hopes to move west to connect to Marea, but likely to face major resistance

The Turkey-backed coalition of Syrian rebels installed in the northern Syrian city of Jarabulus during Turkey’s invasion last week was virtually given the city in the Turkish push, but keeping it, and the vast border zone that Turkey wants them to take over, looks to be a huge task.

The rebels reported that they have between 1,200 and 1,500 fighters total, and while Turkey is moving south to challenge Kurdish control over the city of Manbij, the rebels are expecting to move westward, against the town of Marea, which they’ve contested with ISIS for months. That’s a 70km trip, mostly through ISIS territory.

That would link them up with their existing territory around Azaz, but to do so requires them to capture materially the whole 90km-long border strip that Turkey intends to see them take, and is a tall order for a relatively small faction that, until Turkey trucked them into Jarabulus through Turkish territory, had been losing ground steadily to ISIS.

Unless Turkey intends to do all the heavy lifting for them, and stay in northern Syria over the long-term, it’s hard to see how this collection of rebels can possibly hold that much ground with that few fighters, even assuming they can take it in the first place.

This is doubly true because Turkey’s plans to expel Kurdish forces from the western side of the Euphrates River means that the “rebel” territory is going to go pretty deep into the country in parts, meaning this is going to be a very large territory they’re planning to hold.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.

  • Mark Thomason

    Turkey’s move is against the Kurds, not ISIS.

    Therefore, the rebels don’t need to take anything from ISIS, because that already is held against Kurds joining their two halves. The Turkish rebel groups only need as much as ISIS can’t hold against the Kurds. That is much smaller.