ISIS fades, Coalition forces stay distracted, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham rises

Tiana Meador

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Although ISIS may be near its death due to territory loss, alarmingly, there is a new player on the block, the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) group.

HTS is on the rise, as light was shed upon Syria on Apr. 13, when the United States, Britain and France struck Syrian research, military and storage targets. Spawned from Al Qaeda and taking  over northwestern Syria, the dangerous group functions as one of the country’s stronger militant groups, getting funds from taxes and enforcing Shariah. 

Ben Brimelow, writer for Business Insider said, “There are fears that the group could become the next ISIS, as well as become the only rebel faction against al-Assad’s rule.”

What stands as the most alarming aspect, is that the group had announced in Feb. 2018 that they had taken over 25 villages in Aleppo and Idlib, after defeating ISIS for the territory in Idlib. Furthermore, the group has their own version of ISIS’ Hisbah religious police, taking taxes from water, electricity, and again, enforcing strict Sharia law.

This matter went unsaid in American news.

“The group has also been fighting forces from the Syrian government in Homs, Hama, and Aleppo. But while the terror group continues to grow and solidify its control, the Syrian government and US-led coalition have their attention elsewhere,” said Brimelow.

As US coalition forces focus disputes with President Bashar al-Assad, for his suspected chemical attack near Damascus, which killed more than 40 people, HTS has been given a platform to simmer and grow, right under coalition noses.

Hassan Hassan, analyst for the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, told the Wall Street Journal, “The area seems to be out of focus for Western powers. The jihadis are having a honeymoon there.”

As this group comes into power, there has been a lot of backlash with opposing movements and faction forces in Syria.

In Feb. 2018, two forces, Ahrar al-Sham and Nureddin Zengi Brigade joined to create the Syrian Liberation front, which aims to create a unified front against the remnants of Al Qaedan forces.

Initially formed to remedy the concerns surrounding  

The Syrian Liberation front has actually been in conflict with HTS since early 2018, and was involved in the failure to counter HTS’s assault on Idlib against ISIS. However, although this news sounds new, the groups have also had two separate clashes, in Aug. 2017 and Nov. 2017,  both of which had independent parties involved, whom failed to reconcile the warring parties.

Tamer Osman, writer for Al-Monitor said, “[In Feb. 2018] The clashes intensified and spread to the Hama area. HTS managed to take control over Batabo and Kfar Naseh villages in western Aleppo following battles with the Syrian Liberation Front that later expanded to Kfar Naseh. Battles continue to rage around the Syrian Liberation Front-held town of Darat Izza and village of Taqaad as HTS attempts to enter them.”

The group’s expanse has been on the rise since earlier this year. Regardless, coalition forces keep their head turned two what they consider to be, the greater issue.

April’s strikes have marked the second time in President Donald Trump’s presidency that he has sought to punish the Syrian government over the suspicion of, or presence of, chemical weapons. Unlike before, France and Britain joined the United States in retaliating for the suspected chemical attack last Saturday in the town of Douma.

In support of it, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain said, “This persistent pattern of behavior must be stopped.”

Although the recent airstrikes are of ‘good’ intention, coalition forces need to tread lightly, as they are taking the spotlight off of the next ISIS, and allowing it to grow strong in the dark.