Intel general defects from Syria to Turkey
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Deserted Syrian Gen al-Sheikh (insert) claims the armed forces of President al-Assad has been weakened by recent desertions. AFP photoA brigadier general in charge of intelligence defected to Turkey from the Syrian military two weeks ago and held a secret meeting with the leaders of the Syrian National Council in Hatay on Jan. 11, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.
Mostafa Ahmad al-Sheikh, the deputy commander in charge of Syria’s northern army, defected to Turkey two weeks ago and has been staying in the same camp as Col. Riad al-Asaad, the leader of the Free Syrian Army and another defector.
Turkish Foreign Ministry sources have confirmed the al-Sheikh’s defection and the Jan. 11 meeting in the southern province.
The Jan. 11 meeting in Hatay brought together the two high-ranking defectors and council leader Burhan Ghalioun, as well as the body’s executive committee members; Mahmud Osman, who sits on the council, said the body decided to support the Free Syrian Army both financially and morally.
Osman said they had also set up two criteria for the restructuring of the anti-government army. “Priority will be given to the soldiers who defected earlier from the Syrian army. But defecting soldiers’ former ranks in the Syrian army will also be taken into consideration.”
The council and the high-level defectors “extensively discussed the situation on the ground and the organizational capacity of the [anti-government army],” the body said in a statement, according to an Agence France-Presse report.
“The parties agreed to formulate a detailed plan, including the reorganization of [anti-government army] units and brigades and the creation of a format to accommodate within [its] ranks additional officers and soldiers, especially senior military officials, who side with the revolution,” it said.
Formed from deserters from the regular army who mutinied over the regime’s deadly 10-month crackdown on anti-government protests, the Free Syrian Army said it had about 40,000 fighters under its command.
The numbers cannot be independently verified, although Syrian authorities have acknowledged mounting losses at the hands of the rebels in recent months.
“The [council] proposed a plan of action concerning mechanisms and avenues of support to be offered to pro-revolution sectors of the Syrian military,” the group’s statement said. “Additionally, a direct channel of communication between the [council] and [the anti-government army] will be established ... to ensure effective coordination between the two. The [council] intends to establish a liaison office with the [the anti-government army] in order to maintain direct communications around the clock.”
The council initially opposed the use of force against President Bashar al-Assad when an uprising against his rule erupted last March.