Al-Nusra withdraws from Aleppo amid extensive anti-ISIS ops by Turkey, US
by Fatih Şemsettin Işık
BEIRUTAug 10, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Fatih Şemsettin Işık
Aug 10, 2015 12:00 am
The al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front in Syria has withdrawn from frontline positions and left for other insurgent groups against ISIS north of the Aleppo countryside, where Turkey is in the process of establishing a no-fly zone to drive out ISIS militants in order to secure its border.
In a statement released by the organization on Sunday, the Turkish-U.S. plan to drive ISIS militants from the Syrian-Turkish border area has been criticized, saying the aim was to serve "Turkey's national security," claiming that the no-fly zone plan aims to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish state on its southeastern border, rather than to fight President Bashar Assad.
"Facing this current scene, our only option was to withdraw and leave our frontline positions [with ISIS] in the northern Aleppo countryside for any fighting faction in these areas to take over," al-Nusra Front said.
Reportedly, fighters from the organization commenced withdrawing from the villages of Hiwar Kalas, Shmareen, and Bragheed - east of Azaz - along with its bases in Azaz on Wednesday evening after a meeting between representatives of the group and the main Syrian opposition factions operating in the area.
It is known that the organization is at war with ISIS. The organization declared in the statement that they would maintain the frontlines in ISIS areas including in Hama province and the Qalamoun mountain range near the border with Lebanon.
Previously, al-Nusra Front said it had detained the Free Syrian Army's (FSA) 30th Division base – the group that has been part of the train-and-equip program conducted by U.S. forces in Turkish military camps to fight ISIS - and it has increased tensions between the organization and Syrian opposition forces.
The decision by al-Nusra came at a time when Turkey is preparing for the establishment of a no-fly zone to remove ISIS militants and providing air cover for Syrian rebels in northern Syria with the cooperation of the U.S.
Meanwhile, eight U.S. military airplanes and 300 ground personnel arrived on Sunday at the İncirlik Air Base in Turkey for the fight against ISIS, agencies reported.
"Six U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons have been deployed to İncirlik Air Base, Turkey, to support the fight against ISIS," the U.S. mission to NATO said in a tweet.
The arrival of the fighter jets in Turkey along with support equipment and around 300 personnel was confirmed by the U.S. European Command in a statement.
"The detachment is from the 31st Fighter Wing based at Aviano Air Base, Italy. This follows Turkey's decision to host the deployment of U.S. aircraft conducting counter-ISIS operations," it said.
"The United States and Turkey, as members of the 60-plus nation coalition, are committed to the fight against ISIS in the pursuit of peace and stability in the region," added the statement.
According to media reports, some 30 U.S. fighters and more U.S. warplanes are due to arrive in the coming days to take part in the operation.
The U.S.-led coalition conducted its first airstrike on Wednesday against ISIS targets in northern Syria with an armed drone launched from İncirlik Air Base in Turkey.
Only hours before the strikes, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on the same day that U.S. drones and aircraft had begun arriving at İncirlik Air Base close to the border with Syria, and an "extensive" fight against militants will soon begin.
İncirlik is a key joint U.S. Air Base used by the Turkish Air Force located outside the city of Adana, some 150 kilometers from the Syrian border.
Since November 2011, the U.S. has used armed drones from İncirlik to strike ISIS targets in Syria, supporting the Turkish air campaign against the militants.
The U.S. will now be able to conduct airstrikes from the air base, according to a recent agreement with its NATO ally Turkey that allows the U.S.-led coalition to use the base against ISIS.
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