Someone claiming to represent the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s franchise in Syria, says the newest reinforcements for the U.S.-backed “moderate” Syrian force have already surrendered, according to a report in the UK Telegraph.
President Barack Obama’s rebels also handed over their American weapons to the jihad group that destroyed the Twin Towers building, said the report.
The past week has been rough for the Obama strategy of locating motivated good-guy Syrian rebels and training them into a force that can fight ISIS, al-Qaeda, plus the brutal regime of President Bashar Assad.
It has proven easy for Obama to fund, train, and supply weapons to Syrians. The core problem is that he can’t find more than a few Syrians in Islamic Syria who will risk their lives to fight for Western-style ideas of democracy, secularism, civil society, freedom, and compromise.
First we had official confirmation from the Pentagon that only four or five members of the ridiculously small 54-man squad sent into Syria were still combat-effective, the rest having been abducted, killed, or driven from the field by al-Qaeda.
Then we heard reinforcements were on the way… but only about 75 of them, the sparse product of a $500 million system that was supposed to be turning out thousands of top-quality fighters every year.
Now we have an individual calling himself Abu Fahd al-Tunisi, ostensibly a representative of al-Qaeda in Syria, declaring on Twitter: “A strong slap for America… the new group from Division 30 that entered yesterday hands over all of its weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra after being granted safe passage. They handed over a very large amount of ammunition and medium weaponry and a number of pick-ups.” Division 30 is the designation for the U.S.-supported Syrian rebels.
Furthermore, another purported member of the Nusra Front claimed that Division 30 commander Anas Ibrahim Obaid has defected to al-Qaeda. According to these claims, Obaid and his troops were always covertly working for al-Qaeda — they tricked the Americans into arming and training them, intending all along to hand their gear over to the Nusra Front at the first opportunity.
“He promised to issue a statement… repudiating Division 30, the coalition, and those who trained him,” the Nusra Front spokesman said of Obaid. “And he also gave a large amount of weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra.”
Division 30’s chief of staff, Lt. Colonel Mohammed al-Dhaher, resigned over the weekend, saying that he felt the program was not serious. He cited poor supplies, a low number of recruits, and sloppy vetting for the few recruits he was given. Others have complained the vetting process for Division 30 was too long, resulting in the paltry number of recruits.
If both criticisms are true — the process of clearing recruits was both sloppy and unreasonably time-consuming — it would be a devastating indictment of the program.
The Telegraph claims to have multiple sources for its report of Division 30 surrendering to the Nusra Front, but there doesn’t seem to have been any official confirmation from the U.S. government as yet, and all other reports of the surrender source back to the Telegraph story.
However, the Daily Beast reported on Tuesday evening that Division 30 has formally acknowledged losing contact with Major Anas Obaid after he entered the Aleppo suburbs of Syria with his 71-man unit. Division 30 didn’t exactly shoot down the rumor that he had defected, either. They vowed to put him on trial for treason if the reports of his defection were confirmed.
The Daily Beast relates word from the Pentagon, State Department, and Central Command that they were “unaware of defections” among the new batch of recruits, with Centcom adding that it believes “All Coalition-issued weapons and equipment are under the positive control of NSF fighters.” However, it is noted that the U.S. military doesn’t have direct command over these fighters once they enter Syria.
Alas, judging by the post he left on his Facebook page on Tuesday, Major Obaid (also known as “Abu Zayd”) has indeed defected, or at least repudiated the authority of Division 30 and his U.S. patrons. It’s pretty close to the statement the Nusra Front said to expect from him: “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, we, the grouping of revolutionaries of Atareb and its countryside, announce that we are outside Division 30 Infantry and we are an independent faction working on the Syrian lands in isolation from coordination with the international coalition. And we confirm to the Syrian people that we will fight the khawarji of the age and respond to their aggression in Aleppo and its countryside.”
“Khawarji” is a term for extremist Muslims who lose their way and follow a false caliphate – in other words, ISIS.
Adding to the confusion, the Daily Beast quotes sources who say Syrian officers in Division 30 knew Obaid was likely to turn his coat, and warned American officials. But they were ignored.