A picture of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is displayed on a damaged structure at the entrance of al-Dukhaneya neighbourhood near Damascus, October 7, 2014.
Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

Just two weeks ago, the first 54 graduates of Washington’s trumpeted program to train and equip the Syrian opposition crossed from Turkey into Syria. They were immediately attacked by al Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra, which killed and captured a number of the trainees. The media and Congress rightfully focused on the inauspicious start to a program conceived well over a year ago, but lost in the shuffle was the fact that the unit’s commander is a Syrian Turkmen—an ethnic Turk with Syrian citizenship—and that the area through which the unit marched into Syria, the same territory that Turkey now proposes as a safe zone, is dominated by the very same sect.

Rebel fighters take part in a military display as part of a graduation ceremony at a camp in eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus, July 12, 2015.
Rebel fighters take part in a military display as part of a graduation ceremony at a camp in eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus, July 12, 2015.
Bassam Khabieh / Reuters

Turkey is hardly alone in efforts to carve out friendly zones in the mayhem of the Syrian war. For over two years, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is based southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq, has

To read the full article

  • ANDREW J. TABLER is a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle With Syria. Follow him on Twitter @Andrewtabler.
  • More By Andrew J. Tabler