The activities of Erdogan’s Shadow Army in Syria

During the battles that erupted in northwest Syria at the beginning of this month, there were conflicting reports about the death toll of Turkish soldiers as the Turkish regime officially acknowledged that 59 soldiers were killed, while field sources close to Syria and its allies said that hundreds of Turkish soldiers were killed and injured.
 
To understand the reason behind these conflicting reports, one has to have an idea about Turkey’s SADAT company [also known as Erdogan’s shadow army], which has been involved in Erdogan’s training of terrorist groups fighting in Syria and elsewhere, according to the Arab intellectual Dr. Ibrahim Alloush .
 Dr. Alloush was informed by war correspondent Hussien Mortada that a lot of those killed in the battles at the beginning of this month were wearing Turkish Army uniforms and were using Turkish Army weapons and vehicles, but they were neither from the Turkish Army nor  terrorist groups. 
 
So, he searched for a 'third party', which was involved in these battles, only to find one of the infrastructures of terrorism and destabilization in the region.      
 
The SADAT International Defense Consultancy, established in the 2012 by former Brig- Gen. Adnan Tanriverdi  and scores of other officers and non-commissioned officers dismissed from the Turkish military due to “reactionary activities,” is a company close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) which offers “irregular warfare training” in various fields, including “intelligence, psychological warfare, sabotage, raiding, ambushing, and assassination", in addition to its direct involvement, via its own mercenaries, in conflicts in several Arab and other states.
 
The company set up several facilities in the Marmara region at the beginning of the war on Syria. According to a 2012 report in the Aydinlik newspaper, at least one of these training facilities was located at a Turkish military base in the Golcuk district of Kocaeli, formerly maintained as a training center by the Turkish Navy, according to an article published by the Jerusalem Post on April,16, 2018, which described SADAT as Turkey’s private defense group.
 
Erdogan appointed Tanriverdi as chief security adviser and member of the presidential board for security and foreign policies in 2016 one month after the failed military coup attempt in the summer of that year. 
 
SADAT’s website says it provides both conventional and unconventional military training and can supply weapons, explosives, and other equipment to its clients, but it seems that it is doing much more than that, according to Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who is specialized in Iran, Turkey, and the broader Middle East.
 
Even inside Turkey, suspicions about the group run deep.
 
Ali Riza Ozturk, for example, a member of parliament from the center-left Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP), officially queried the Turkish government about SADAT’s involvement in training and equipping extremist and terror groups including ISIS [Its Arabic acronym is Daesh] in Syria.
 
Ozturk also asked whether the government’s refusal to allow members of parliament to inspect a camp in the Hatay (Iskandaron) province was related to SADAT’s presence and training in that camp.  The government did not respond substantively to the question, and has even removed the transcript of Ozturk’s questioning from the record.
 
Turkish officers and counter-terror officials also raised concern about SADAT’s recruitment and training in Central Asia and Europe.
 
Prior to Russia’s recent rapprochement with Turkey, the Russian government included SADAT in report to the United Nations about Erdogan and his family’s support for terror organizations in Syria. Turkish analysts also believe SADAT aids both in recruitment in Chechnya, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan for Syria’s most extremist groups, and in the transfer through Turkey of those recruits.
 
When in 2015 Russia investigated nearly 900 people traveling to fight in Syria and Iraq, Russian authorities found that 25 percent had connections to SADAT.
 
It is clear that SADAT follows and enforces Erdogan’s agenda without the constraints of being a government entity. Such a conclusion makes sense not only because of circumstantial evidence, but rather because Erdogan has made SADAT’s leader one of his top aides on par with, if not more influential than, the commander of the Turkish General Staff. Certainly, this raises questions about their activities in the run-up and during the coup, but it should also raise questions about Turkey’s growing role as a terror sponsor.
 
Basma Qaddour