The areas of northern and eastern Aleppo, which are under the control of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), are witnessing a state of lawlessness and an increase in the number of car and motorcycle bombings, in addition to assassinations and fighting among the factions. The most recent of incident happened on Sunday in the city of Afrin as a result of infighting between Jaysh al-Islam (“The Islam Army”) — which was displaced from eastern Ghouta, Damascus — on the one hand, and the Levant Front, — which is made up of several factions — on the other hand.
The bombings and assassinations extend from the city of Jarablus, located in the far reaches of the Operation Euphrates Shield, east of Aleppo, to the city of Jenderes in the northwest of the Operation Olive Branch area. Perhaps the greatest evidence of the weakness of the security administration in northern Syria was the detonation of a car bomb near the building of the Syrian Interim Government in downtown Azaz at the end of January.
Lawlessness and chaos
Military and strategic analyst, Col. Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi, told Baladi News that “despite the formation of the ministries of defense and interior in the Syrian Interim Government and the establishment of the military police, the civil police, and many security services, the most prominent problem that casts its shadow over northern Syria and its residents is the security chaos that has become prevalent in the region. This is the case especially through faction fighting, which has created a state of chaos at the security, economic, and social levels.”
“Not only was there fighting, but there was also a spread of smuggling and drug trafficking through illegal crossings with SDF [Syrian Defense Forces] and the Syrian regime, which has become very popular in these areas in the absence of security oversight, not to mention the almost-daily bombings and assassinations that take place,” continued Oqaidi.
He pointed out that the security developments have weighed heavily on civilians, who are the weakest link and victims of the situation. Their suffering has increased in light of a systematic displacement carried out by the Syrian regime and the miserable humanitarian situation, not to mention the economic conditions that prevail in the region and the lack of job opportunities and daily subsistence.
Regarding the causes of the fighting between the factions, Oqaidi said that “the multiplicity of the National Army factions, their lack of a clear institutional structure and a disciplined military hierarchy, as well as the inclusion of the military factions in the SNA — without taking into consideration the security situation, and the factions’ sole interest in having large numbers of fighters at the expense of quality and national, ethical, and revolutionary standards [are all reasons].”
He adds, “the other reason is the spread of financial distress and the need for and lack of job opportunities in the liberated areas because most of the youth work within the ranks of the SNA.”
Conflicts all around
In turn, the Director of Moral Guidance in the SNA, Hassan al-Daghim, said in an interview with Baladi News that “there are several reasons that contribute to the tension among arms carriers — including the large number of Syrians stranded in northern Syria after they were forcibly displaced and their areas were subjected to demographic change, which, in turn, led to the emergence of some regional, familial, and tribal conflicts, which impede the work of the revolutionary institutions and security services. Moreover, entire generations were prevented from getting an education due to the displacement and bombing, which led to the spread of illiteracy and ignorance significantly.”
Regarding the direct causes of faction fighting, Daghim said that the presence of SNA members along with their families within the cities, and the SNA’s failure to reach its professional formation goals — which is represented by the establishment of military barracks outside the cities, the removal of headquarters outside the cities, and the building of many camps. The goals have not been met and there is still interest in developing the work of the security institutions, and the civil and military police.
Daghim added that one of the most important reasons [for the proliferation of faction fighting] is the difficulty in turning SNA members into an organized army that bears proper responsibility. The majority of SNA members were civilians before they had to take up arms and defend their land and honor, according to Daghim.
He concluded by saying, “there is no doubt that we suffer from a constitutional crisis because the Interim Government and the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces have not received recognition from the international community. Therefore, there is a constitutional gap regarding the ability to apply the death penalty to those who deserve it.”