Why Rebel Groups Fighting Each Other Are Still Fighting Together Near Qamishli
by Karen Leigh
As the most intense rebel infighting since the start of the conflict raged between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic Front this week in Raqqa and Aleppo, fighters from all three groups continued to collaborate in their offensive against the PYD, a Kurdish militia group, near Qamishli.
We asked Valerie Szybala, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War who focuses on Syrian Kurds, to explain why the groups are working together in the Kurdish province, while they do battle against each other in other parts of the country.
Syria Deeply: What exactly are we looking at in the Kurdish areas? Where’s the fighting taking place?
Valerie Szybala: You’re looking at the highway between Qamlishli and Hassakeh, which is to the south. The fighting is in villages that are to the eastern side of that highway. We’re talking about small villages that have been contested for quite a long time: the Kurdish militias have been doing really well in the last few months against ISIS, and also against [rebel brigade and Islamic Front member] Ahrar al-Sham. The real reason they continue to fight together is because they have been united against the Kurds, and it speaks to the localization of the conflict, the fact that there are a lot of ISIS units that are not under central control.
SD: Why would they still be working together here, as violence increases in Raqqa, Aleppo and into Deir Ezzor?
VS: This wouldn’t be first situation we’ve seen where ISIS fighters were doing different things in other parts of the country. In this context, it makes sense that battallions and units of men fighting against the Kurds wouldn’t just start turning around and shooting each other because of tensions elsewhere.