The young rebel from Idlib rolled down his sock to reveal a deep, blackened gash, a grim memento of weeks as an Islamic State captive. The man who tortured him in that prison was on his mind when he heard that Turkey was offering military training to 500 men, and decided to sign up.
Like all the recruits to Ankara’s latest experiment, he was a seasoned anti-Assad rebel with battlefield experience but no military education. Turkey promised to drill and discipline them, creating the nucleus of a new Syrian rebel army.
“They told us: ‘You have been fighting for six years, God bless you, but we want to train you to be soldiers’,” the former prisoner said. Like all Syrian fighters and officials who agreed to interviews about the latest offensive, he spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of relations with Turkey.