HTS's attacks on Afrin and Azaz only serve to weaken the Syrian revolution and advance the interests of foreign powers, such as Russia and Iran. It seems likely this is a cynical ploy by HTS to safeguard its leadership's position in the event of a reproachment between Damascus and Ankara. HTS’s invasion of Afrin could have been reversed by Turkey—as a prior foray into Afrin’s countryside was in June—with a single phone call. Why wasn't it?
Infighting between SNA militias should be understood as part of Turkey’s divide and rule policy in Syria. Despite the rhetoric of SNA militias being different from HTS, these Turkish-backed factions occupying northern Syria are reactionary militants who aim to create an ultraconservative theocracy. Although originally created in opposition to the Syrian state, since being co-opted by Turkey they've focused attacks on targeting ISIS and the Kurdish-led, secular, left-wing Syrian Democratic Forces.