Nusra Front withdraws from ISIS frontline

A Nusra Front statement criticized a Turkish-U.S. plan to drive ISIS from the Syrian-Turkish border area

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The al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front has withdrawn from frontline positions against ISIS north of Aleppo and ceded them to other rebels, leaving an area of northern Syria where Turkey wants to establish a buffer zone.

A Nusra Front statement dated on Sunday criticized a Turkish-U.S. plan to drive ISIS from the Syrian-Turkish border area, saying the aim was to serve “Turkey's national security” rather than the fight against President Bashar al-Assad.

The Nusra Front, an enemy of ISIS, said participation in the campaign was forbidden.

The U.S. and Turkey last month announced their intention to drive ISIS fighters from a strip of territory in northern Syria near the Turkish border, providing air cover for Syrian rebels in the area.

ISIS, the focus of a U.S.-led military campaign in Syria and Iraq, controls a strip of territory north of Aleppo that abuts the Turkish border.

Nusra said the Turkish government and the U.S.-led alliance against ISIS were seeking to direct the battle according to their interests and priorities, and said Syrian groups taking part were not doing so of their free will.

“Facing this current scene, our only option was to withdraw and leave our frontline positions (with ISIS) in the northern Aleppo countryside for any fighting faction in these areas to take over,” the group said.

It added that the Nusra Front would maintain frontlines with ISIS in other areas including Hama province and the Qalamoun mountain range near the border with Lebanon.

Last month, the Nusra Front said it had detained U.S.-trained rebels in northern Syria and warned others to abandon a program to train and equip an insurgent force to fight ISIS.

The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, a U.S. ally in the campaign against ISIS, controls some 400 km of the border to the northeast of Aleppo.

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