FSA to join Raqqa operation claims commander

Turkish-backed FSA fighters in the Euphrates Shield operation.

6,000 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters from the Turkey-led Euphrates Shield Operation will join the offensive to push the Islamic State (IS) out from Raqqa, Syrian opposition news outlet Zaman Al Wasl claimed on Monday.

Haytham al-Afisi, former Syrian army colonel and Euphrates Shield commander, reportedly said to Zaman Al Wasl that pressure from Washington had made Ankara change its mind and the US has requested the commanders of the FSA groups for unity in order to receive weapons and funding.

Turkey has long tried to persuade the US to end its cooperation with the Kurdish YPG, a leading component in the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Ankara claims the YPG is the sister organisation of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), groups Turkey sees as “terrorist organisations.”

Leading Turkish officials have admitted they want to prevent a “Kurdish corridor” and entity from being formed in Syria, fearing it could strengthen the demands of at least 15 million Kurds living in Turkey’s borders.

Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) commanders Rojda Felat and Sipan Hemo have both said the Raqqa operation is scheduled to start in April.