Turkiye deploys Syria rebels to Africa to protect businesses, combat Daesh

Turkiye deploys Syria rebels to Africa to protect businesses, combat Daesh

Syrian opposition fighters have reportedly been recruited for combat and security missions in some African countries, in what seems to be the latest deployment of Syrian rebels abroad at the behest of Turkiye.

According to the news outlet, Middle East Eye, several Syrian rebel sources informed it that hundreds of fighters have been deployed to the African nations of Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria. While some have reportedly been assigned combat roles to counter Daesh in the Sahel region, others are given close protection assignments or security roles to protect Turkish businesses in those countries, such as factories and mines.

The Syrian fighters are mostly affiliated with the Syrian National Army (SNA) – the coalition of rebel militias which largely works in line with Turkiye in northern Syria – and so are likely deployed on such missions under the command of Turkish agencies or private Turkish military or security companies.

“The command is not in Syrian hands”, one of the rebels deployed in Africa told the outlet. “Sometimes we sign up for the protection of Turkish businesses, sometimes for fighting the Islamic State, and sometimes for guarding mines or factories.”

With the initial reports of such deployments first being published by Western media outlets, SNA fighters had revealed that they were recruited through the Sultan Murad Brigade faction under the rebel coalition’s umbrella, and that they had signed contracts ranging from six months to a year for a monthly salary of $1,500.

According to the rebel sources, after receiving short-term training – the trainers and company of which are still unknown – the first group was deployed in February this year and consisted of at least 500 fighters, many of whom remained in Niger, while others left for Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

The missions farther reveal a practice and mercenary industry in which, over the past four years, Turkiye reportedly deployed Syrian fighters to other combat zones including Libya to assist the UN-backed administration in the west of the country and to Azerbaijan in support of the Azeri army against Armenian forces. Such previous deployments have long been murky, however, with Turkish authorities officially denying the use of Syrian fighters while rebel sources have always, in some capacity, confirmed it.

One senior Syrian rebel commander revealed the controversy the blossoming mercenary industry is perceived with amongst the opposition groups. Despite “a special alliance and brotherhood” with Turkiye, that “relationship has been exploited by some greedy commanders over time”, he said. “The problem is that the entire SNA is being labelled as mercenaries due to the ambitions of a few commanders.”

Another senior commander highlighted the financial opportunities such missions present to rebel fighters, saying that “an SNA fighter tries to support his family with a salary of 1,500 Turkish lira [$47], of which half is taken by commanders as kickback”. He stressed that “the only job sector needing manpower nationwide is being a mercenary”.

Source » middleeastmonitor.com