An Al Qaeda-linked jihadist group Hay’at Tahir al-Sham (HTS) is gaining swaths of territory in the northern province of Idlib, usurping control from Turkish-backed groups connected to the National Liberation Front (NLF).
The goals of the group, otherwise known as the “Organization for the Liberation of the Levant,” are centered on dominating as much territory as possible ahead of planned talks between Russia and Turkey, to bring a final end to the almost eight-year Syrian civil war. Based on a previous agreement, Turkey was supposed to have reigned in the extremist outfit – now raising concerns it may not have the capacity to do so.
HTS’s latest capture includes the strategic town of Darat Izza, close to two of Syria’s main highways, and deemed a conduit both within Syria and to bordering Turkey. Some analysts have contended the Turkish leadership is too focused on the Kurdish issue in the region to effecitively respond to HTS’s expansion.
So who is HTS, and what danger do they pose?
“HTS has proven itself to be the strongest military force in the Idlib pocket in recent weeks. Their rapid advance is a cause for concern because they are de-stabilizing efforts to bring a political settlement to the last rebel enclave,” Alan Mendoza, founder and executive director of the U.S. policy think tank the Henry Jackson Society, told Fox News. “Their extremist ideology also makes it more likely that the Russian and Assadist forces will have an excuse to launch a full-scale offensive, which will have devastating humanitarian consequences.”
Read the full article in Fox News.