Norway-Trained 'Anti-Daesh' Rebels Turn Against Assad - Report
According to Klassekampen, the rebel group is now openly fighting for a regime change in Syria, while remaining an important part of US efforts to prevent Iranian influence in the region.
In May 2016, it was announced that Norwegian soldiers were to be dispatched to Syria's southern neighbor Jordan to provide "training, counseling and operational support" to Syrian paramilitary groups fighting Daesh as part of the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve. In June 2016, the Norwegian parliament also green-lit similar missions in Syria itself.
While Norway's Syrian 'contribution' was formally concluded in March this year when the mandate formally expired, the exact extent and nature of Norway's involvement was largely kept secret. MaT commander Muhannad al-Talla confirmed to Klassekampen that his group was trained by Norwegians in al-Tanf in southeastern Syria, where the US maintains a base.
While both Prime Minister Erna Solberg and then-Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide emphasized that the mandate was to fight Daesh, ensuring that they "won't endanger the peace process," al-Talla claimed that his Western allies never concealed that his soldiers were to fight both terrorists and the Syrian government.
Within the zone, troops loyal to the government have been bombed at least two times by US combat aircraft. At the same time, several rebel groups, including MaT, have taken part in an offensive against government forces after Daesh's withdrawal from eastern Syria. Insurgent Free Syrian Army (FSA) spokesman and counselor Ibrahim al-Idlibi confirmed to Klassekampen that Norway-trained "militia" took part in the struggle against Assad-associated forces, such as the operation "The Country is Ours" carried out in May and June 2017.
While the Syrian government has managed to reclaim most of the country's territory from Daesh and various rebel groups, MaT leader Muhannad al-Talla is by his own admission not ready to lay down arms.
According to FSA spokesman al-Idlibi, the goal of MaT and similar rebel groups is to "fight Iranian and Shia groups" in the area. Al-Idlibi pledged that the fight will continue "until the mission is complete."
* Daesh (also known as IS/ISIS/ISIL) is a terrorist organization banned in Russia