New ISIS Military Commander Was Trained by State Department as Recently as 2014

new-isis-commander-gulmorad-halimov-trained-by-state-department-sized-770x415xtPJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE, SEPTEMBER 6, 2016:

Gulmurod Khalimov, the new ISIS military commander whom the U.S. just days ago announced a $3 million bounty for, was trained by the State Department in an anti-terror program as recently as 2014 while serving in the security service of Tajikistan.

He replaces former ISIS commander Tarkhan Batirashvili, aka Umar al-Shishani, who was also trained by the United States as part of the Georgian army and who ISIS claimed was killed fighting in Iraq this past July.

The State Department confirmed Khalimov’s U.S.-provided training to CNN in May 2015:

“From 2003-2014 Colonel Khalimov participated in five counterterrorism training courses in the United States and in Tajikistan, through the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security/Anti-Terrorism Assistance program,” said spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala.The program is intended to train candidates from participating countries in the latest counterterrorism tactics, so they can fight the very kind of militants that Khalimov has now joined.

A State Department official said Khalimov was trained in crisis response, tactical management of special events, tactical leadership training and related issues.

Unironically, the State Department spokeswoman said that Khalimov had been appropriately vetted:

“All appropriate Leahy vetting was undertaken in advance of this training,” said spokeswoman Jhunjhunwala.

At that time, Khalimov appeared in a video threatening the United States:

“Listen, you American pigs: I’ve been to America three times. I saw how you train soldiers to kill Muslims,” he says.Then, he threatens, “we will find your towns, we will come to your homes, and we will kill you.”

Khalimov and Batirashvili are hardly the first terrorist leaders operating in Syria to have been trained by the United States.

In August 2014, the Washington Post reported that fighters who had been trained by Western forces, including the U.S., in Libya had found their way to terror groups at the beginning of the Syrian conflict:

Some European and Arab intelligence officials also voiced their worries and frustration about what they call the mistakes the United States has made in handling the uprisings in Arab states. “We had, in the early stages, information that radical groups had used the vacuum of the Arab Spring, and that some of the people the U.S. and their allies had trained to fight for ‘democracy’ in Libya and Syria had a jihadist agenda — already or later, [when they] joined al Nusra or the Islamic State,” a senior Arab intelligence official said in a recent interview. He said that often his U.S. counterparts would say things like, “We know you are right, but our president in Washington and his advisers don’t believe that.” Those groups, say Western security officials, are threats not only in the Middle East, but also in the United States and Europe, where they have members and sympathizers.The official’s account has been corroborated by members of the Islamic State in and outside the Middle East, including Abu Yusaf, the military commander. In several interviews conducted in the last two months, they described how the collapse of security during Arab Spring uprisings helped them recruit, regroup and use the Western strategy — to support and train groups that fight dictators — for their own benefits. “There had [also] been … some British and Americans who had trained us during the Arab Spring times in Libya,” said a man who calls himself Abu Saleh and who only agreed to be interviewed if his real identity remained secret.

Abu Saleh, who is originally from a town close to Benghazi, said he and a group of other Libyans received training and support in their country from French, British, and American military and intelligence personnel — before they joined the Al Nusra Front or the Islamic State. Western and Arab military sources interviewed for this article, confirmed Abu Saleh’s account that “training” and “equipment” were given to rebels in Libya during the fight against the Gadhafi regime.

Abu Saleh left Libya in 2012 for Turkey and then crossed into Syria. “First I fought under what people call the ‘Free Syrian Army’ but then switched to Al Nusra. And I have already decided I will join the Islamic State when my wounds are healed,” the 28-year-old said from a hospital in Turkey, where he is receiving medical treatment. He had been injured during a battle with the Syrian Army, he said, and was brought to Turkey with false documents.  “Some of the Syrian people who they trained have joined the Islamic State and others jabhat al Nusra,” he said, smiling. He added, “Sometimes I joke around and say that I am a fighter made by America.”

This problem of a terror “boomerang” also goes back to the Bush administration, as seen when Islamist rebels took over a large portion of Mali in 2013.

As the Financial Times reported:

To the dismay of the US, junior Malian officers trained as part of $620m pan-Sahelian counter-terrorism initiative launched in 2002 to help four semi-desert states resist Islamic militancy took part in a coup in March last year. Others among them defected to the Tuareg revolt that eventually led to a coalition of Islamist militias, allied with Algerian militants from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, capturing the northern two-thirds of Mali.Potentially, these US-trained officers are now using US counter-insurgency know-how against France’s intervention force.

“It is a great failure,” says Dr Berny Sèbe, an expert in Franco-African relations at the University of Birmingham. “Some of them defected. Others organised a coup.”

In two of the three other Sahelian states involved in the Pentagon’s pan-Sahelian initiative, Mauritania and Niger, armies trained by the US, have also taken power in the past eight years. In the third, Chad, they came close in a 2006 attempt.

And back in Syria, as I’m chronicled repeatedly here at PJ Media, “vetted moderate” forces armed and trained by the U.S. have defected to ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

July 7, 2014: U.S. ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Brigades Surrender Weapons, Pledge Allegiance to Islamic StateNov. 2, 2014: U.S.-Armed ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Groups Surrender, Defect to Al-Qaeda

Nov. 24, 2014: More Defections of ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Rebels to ISIS

Dec. 2, 2014: US-Backed Syrian Rebels Ally with al-Qaeda in South, Surrender CIA-Supplied Weapons in the North

Sept. 22, 2015: Report: U.S.-Trained, ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Leader Defects to Al-Qaeda, Turns Weapons Over to Terror Group

Given these repeated instances, one might begin to question the quality of the U.S. government’s vetting capabilities.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka: How Islamic State ‘Outgrew the Mothership’ of Al-Qaeda

Gorka-You-Tube-National-Security-Center-640x480

Breitbart, by John  Hayward, Dec. 7, 2015:

The authorities have disclosed that San Bernardino jihadi Tashfeen Malik swore fealty to the Islamic State during her murder spree, but also that her husband Syed Farook was in contact with Syria’s Nusra Front and Somalia’s al-Shabaab – terrorist groups affiliated with the Islamic State’s rivals and progenitors, al-Qaeda.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka, a Breitbart National Security contributor and the Chair of Military Theory at Marine Corps University, explained this apparent ideological dissonance on Fox & Friends by noting that ISIS grew from al-Qaeda, and despite their current, occasionally violent rivalry, there is still ideological connective tissue between them.

gorka on f&f

“ISIS isn’t completely differentiated from al-Qaeda. ISIS came out of al-Qaeda,” Dr. Gorka said. “ISIS was originally al-Qaeda in Iraq, the organization run by Zarqawi, until we killed him. What’s happened in the last three or four years, it’s outgrown its mothership. It’s stolen the brand of jihad, and now ISIS is much more powerful than al-Qaeda.”

“These are all members of the same global jihadi movement, competing to be the lead brand,” he continued.  “But the connection is the same, whether it’s AQ, al-Nusra, al-Shabaab, or ISIS.  They’re all jihadis.”

Gorka said the Obama Administration was “living in a fantasyland, a bubble, where they have a pre-concocted narrative that terrorism is the result of economic hardship, political disenfranchisement… global warming, climate change is much more dangerous… the real jayvee team is ISIS, al-Qaeda is on the ropes… This is the narrative that they’ve spun themselves into for seven years, and anything that counters that, any shock of reality that goes against the White House meme, has to be ignored. So let’s talk about gun control. It’s incredible.”

Another persistent problem is the Left’s insistence on shoehorning terrorist attacks into their preferred victimhood narratives. As Gorka noted, there have been some efforts to portray the San Berardino jihadis as “oppressed,” their murderous rage an understandable response to verbal offense given by their victims, perhaps even by Farook’s employers holding a Christmas party.  Details of their family background have been searched for shopworn liberal excuses for crime and violence, such as a difficult home life.

“Who cares what his parents did to this man?” Gorka said about Syed Farook. “Did we talk about Hitler’s father being abusive to him? It’s not relevant.”

Gorka charged that the Administration is “allowing political correctness, and considerations of an ideological nature, to undermine the threat assessment work that needs to be done.”

“Let’s not talk about jihad, let’s not talk about why these people do it.  Let’s talk about gun control.  It’s like a bad SNL skit in my opinion,” he said, referring to the “Saturday Night Live” comedy show.

Gorka pointed to the San Bernardino attack as more obvious evidence that ISIS has arrived in America… but it’s hardly the first or only evidence, as a report he cited from the Threat Knowledge Group, written before the California attack, makes clear.

“The war is real.  The war is here,” he said.  “30 percent of the 82 people we’ve killed or arrested in America in the last two years [for ISIS involvement] didn’t want to go abroad to be jihadis. They wanted to kill Americans in America.  This is a war that is real and global.  Jihad has arrived at the shores of America.  9/11 isn’t history – it is now.

Gorka offered some safety advice for Americans, dismissing the Administration’s narrative about sudden radicalization and instant jihad to note that such attacks take careful preparation, and can be interrupted by alert citizens who keep their eyes open… if they disregard political correctness to report what they see.

He also dismissed the gun-control narrative to emphasize that individual American citizens must take responsibility for their own safety, and the safety of their loved ones.  “Do not expect Washington to save you when an attack occurs,” he warned.  “Dialing 911 is not gonna cut it. You have to take responsibility, you have to be aware, and if possible, fight back.”

“We need leadership that says one thing very clearly: we have an enemy – not global climate change, the enemy is global jihad, and these people are evil,” Gorka concluded.

Instead, we have leadership that stresses political correctness and refuses to admit the war is on, because they’re determined to push President Obama’s talking points about ISIS being “contained.”

“Tell that to the fourteen people dead in California,” Dr. Gorka suggested.

Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Begins to Stall-What Now?

  • Putin Gives Assad mid-Nov. deadline for results with Aleppo offensive and that the Russian airstrikes weren’t “indefinite.”
  • Syrian Rebels gaining some ground and pro-Assad forces suffering supply shortages and taking casualties – most notably IRGC commander Hamedani causing low morale.
  • Lack of coordination and competition between IRGC-Qods Force, Hezbollah, SAA and Russian Army causing problems
  • In spite of ops in Ukraine and Syria causing logistical strain on Russia, no sign of opening another air base.
  • Russia’s plan to take Aleppo, forcing a negotiated settlement and then turning attention to hitting ISIS is not going well and the Sinai plane bombing has just made everything more complicated.
  • Russian propaganda aside, can you say “Quagmire”?

The ISIS Study Group, Nov. 7, 2015:

In late-OCT Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a surprise visit to Moscow. Although it was called a “working visit” and the Assad regime did confirm three meetings were held, most people in the international press were caught up with this being Assad’s first visit in a few years. However, something rather important occurred during this visit – Vlad put Assad on notice. Assad was informed by Vlad that he’s expecting results from the Aleppo offensive by mid-NOV since he has Russian military support. That’s mid-NOV as in starting next week. He also told Assad that the Russian airstrikes weren’t “indefinite.”

Syria’s Assad in surprise visit to Moscow
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/10/syria-assad-met-russia-putin-moscow-151021064340109.html

Source: ZB

Source: ZB

Indeed this is a bit of a departure from what Vlad told Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia (“No End in Sight in Fighting on the Arabian Peninsula Front”), but we see it as more of our favorite KGB officer beginning to feel a greater sense of urgency. Basil al-Asad Airbase is operating at full capacity and our sources in Syria have informed us that there are no plans to open up other airbases to expand Russia’s logistical footprint – which is going to come back to haunt them. The ongoing offensive in Aleppo that we discussed in “Pro-Assad Forces Experience Setbacks Despite Russian Military Intervention” has become the new priority for the pro-regime forces looking for a “big win.” The problem with this is it means resources and personnel involved in the operations occurring in Northwest Syria are being redirected. Despite the Russian military support and diverting of resources and personnel to the Aleppo front, the offensive has stalled.

No End in Sight in Fighting on the Arabian Peninsula Front
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=8896

On Thursday the al-Qaida-flavored Jund al-Aqsa seized control of the Hama Province town of Morek. That town was the last SAA garrison along the main highway between Aleppo and Hama. This was a particularly important event since the anti-Assad factions now have control of a major line of communication from which reinforcements and supplies can be sent to support operations in Idlib and Aleppo. We’ve been covering this multi-pronged pro-regime offensive to retake Aleppo, Idlib, and Russia’s involvement in it from the start (“Russia Supports New Syrian Offensive and Begins Prepping For Russian Ground OPs” and “Pro-Assad Forces Experience Setbacks Despite Russian Military Intervention”). In those articles we discussed the first indicators of things not exactly going as well as Russian propagandists are spinning them out to be. Although its true that pro-regime forces retook multiple villages South of Aleppo, they sustained heavy losses in doing so.

Syria jihadists capture regime town along vital road
http://news.yahoo.com/syria-rebels-seize-key-regime-town-hama-aleppo-095717057.html

Russia Supports New Syrian Offensive and Begins Prepping For Russian Ground OPs
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=8669

Pro-Assad Forces Experience Setbacks Despite Russian Military Intervention
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=8778

BG Hamedani in his best pic yet Source: The ISIS Study Group

BG Hamedani in his best pic yet
Source: The ISIS Study Group

The IRGC continues to play a large role on the ground on the Aleppo front, although they haven’t been able to recover (yet) from the death of IRGC BG Hossein Hamedani (Reference – “Pro-Assad Forces Experience Setbacks Despite Russian Military Intervention”). The combined pro-regime forces were already having problems coordinating/prioritizing lines of effort, but BG Hamedani’s death made the situation worse. As of this writing the vast majority of the pro-regime forces are suffering from low-morale and supply shortages that are compounded by that failure to prioritize and coordinate operations – which is why the current Aleppo campaign is stalling. Such problems have watered down all the airstrikes and fire support, so it really shouldn’t surprise anybody that the ground forces are having a hard time seizing and holding territory.

A big indicator of these problems in coordination operations can be seen in the anti-Assad factions’ adapting to the Russian airstrikes that aren’t necessarily being reported up by the guys on the ground. The reason has more to do with personal pride and an overall pissing contest between the officers of the IRGC-Qods Force, Hezbollah, SAA and Russian Army. The establishment of joint-coordination centers have helped some, but thus far it appears to have been the most successful in better stream-lining logistical operations. The reason for the lackluster improvement has to do with the Russian military continuing to maintain their own C2 separate from the SAA, IRGC and Hezbollah. The Russians manage sorties and use embedded LNOs to process strike requests – which chews up a lot of time that the guys on the ground probably don’t have the luxury of wasting. As one would guess, this has only led to increased tensions between the Russians and the Qods Force – who don’t believe they need Vlad’s boys beat down the anti-Assad factions (Gee, that sure looks like a great opportunity for some IO messaging there, CENTCOM – HINT, HINT).

al-Nusra fighters in the Southern part of Aleppo Source: al-Nusra Media Office

al-Nusra fighters in the Southern part of Aleppo
Source: al-Nusra Media Office

The Islamic State (IS) had severed some of the primary supply lines (such as the Khanaser Road) linking support hubs to the Aleppo front. Although the Assad regime is trumpeting its “victory” in regaining control of the Khanaser Road, they had to reallocate units to reopen the line of communication (LOC) just to sustain the offensive. Unfortunately, that also meant losing considerable momentum in other, more critical areas on the front. Assad’s forces were stretched even further when they were forced to eject IS from an oilfield near Hama. Another issue the SAA is running into is the increasing reliance on militias such as the Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA) as a result of manpower shortages. The problem with relying on the militias is that they’re very hit or miss. Not all of the militias are as capable as Hezbollah, Badr Organization, Kitaib Hezbollah (KH) or Asaib al-Haq (AAH). As a result, the Russian ground force mix of Spetsnaz and conventional troops are seeing more action. Most of their operations (the conventional guys anyways) are centered around convoy security in the Ghab Valley, although their Naval Infantry guys are conducting more small-unit operations at the company-level and lower. The Spetsnaz continue to due their counter-terror raids in conjunction with the Qods Force, although neither side appears to be particularly thrilled with having to “share” responsibilities. Those Russian ground troops have already sustained 10 KIA and another 24 WIA (again, a great opportunity for an IO campaign for the US to regain the initiative – assuming anybody in the Pentagon still has their balls).

Syrian Government Forces Regain Key Aleppo Supply Route
http://www.wsj.com/articles/syrian-government-forces-regain-key-aleppo-supply-rout-1446740694

Syrian Regime Makes Gains For Aleppo Supply Lines, Uniting ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nusra, Syrian Rebels
http://www.ibtimes.com/syrian-regime-makes-gains-aleppo-supply-lines-uniting-isis-jabhat-al-nusra-syrian-2165308

Syrian army, allied Hezbollah militia expel ISIS from key oilfield near Hama
http://aranews.net/2015/11/syrian-army-allied-hezbollah-militia-expel-isis-from-key-oilfield-near-hama/

Hollow Victory: The pro-regime forces threw a great deal of time and personnel – their most precious resource – at retaking this piece of real estate Source: George Ourfalian (Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Hollow Victory: The pro-regime forces threw a great deal of time and personnel – their most precious resource – at retaking this piece of real estate
Source: George Ourfalian (Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

The big problem Vlad is going to face if this war extends beyond 6 months (which we don’t see any end in the foreseeable future) is the strain on the Russian military’s logisitical capabilities. Sure, the talking heads in the media point to Russia’s vast numbers, but what they fail to realize is that Russia’s military is a conscript force – and one that doesn’t have the highest morale. They also overlook the fact that despite the Russian military’s size, they have a hard time providing logistical support to it on campaigns. Russia was beginning to struggle with providing support to the limited presence it has in Ukraine, so what do you think is going to happen in Syria, or Iraq for that matter (should they expand there)? The biggest sign of strain to Russia’s airlift capabilities will be felt in the ordnance-area, in a few months we’ll know why the airstrikes will begin to decline. This is why we find Russia’s decision not to open up another airbase to alleviate the strain placed on Basil al-Assad Airbase (which is currently operating at full capacity) so interesting. The implied task, therefore, would be to use more sealift transport. The problem with that is the Russian Naval base in Tartus may not have the infrastructure to expand that capability. Ultimately, this will lead to a lag in support operations.

So what’s next? With all the resources being thrown into this multi-pronged Syrian offensive with so little in results, Vlad is going to be forced to either invest even more in the regional war by expanding Russia’s military intervention, or lower the bar of what constitutes “success.” Vlad’s original plan was to push for a “big win” in Aleppo to use as a means of forcing the so-called “moderates” into a negotiated settlement on terms favorable to Assad. Once that happens, the combined pro-regime forces would turn their complete attention to IS. However, the bombing of a Russian airliner in Sinai changed all that (Check out “Sinai Plane Crash Update” and “Amplifying Details on the Sinai Plane Bombing and the Egypt-Libya Nexus” for more details). If anything, Vlad almost has to expand his military’s involvement in Syria if nothing else but to continue to push the narrative that he’s the “ironman” of the international community – and the “anti-Obama.” Thing is, by getting more involved in this regional war, Vlad will run the risk of falling into the same trap that his predecessors did in Afghanistan. Vlad may fill the leadership void left by the US government, but all its going to do is increase recruitment to Baghdadi’s cause. Jihadists may hate America, but they have a very special hatred for Russians. As much as the Rand Paul fanboys are excited about the possibility of somebody else carrying the load, region will become much more unstable because of it. This is going to affect both the West and the Russians. Keep in mind that although Russia prefers a more draconian strategy of laying waste to entire populations, that philosophy didn’t particularly work out in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Ingushtia or Dagestan. So welcome to the meat-grinder Vlad – sucks, don’t it?

Sinai Plane Crash Update
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=9184

Amplifying Details on the Sinai Plane Bombing and the Egypt-Libya Nexus
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=9230

Source: The ISIS Study Group

Source: The ISIS Study Group

Other Related Articles:

Vlad Uses Saudi Prince’s Thirst for Power to His Advantage Against US Influence
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=9180

Islamic State Claims to Have Shot-Down Russian Plane in Sinai – But Did They?
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=9157

Russia Providing Lethal Aid to Syria, Iran and Establishment of Intel Centers in Iraq
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=8532

Russia Poised to Increase Military Presence in Middle East in Response to Islamic State’s Strength
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=8416

US-Trained Syrian Rebels Allegedly Hand Weapons to Al Qaeda Affiliate

Jabhat al-Nusra, affiliated to al-Qaeda, took the technicals, guns and ammunition from the US-trained Division 30 in northern Aleppo Photo: Reuters

Jabhat al-Nusra, affiliated to al-Qaeda, took the technicals, guns and ammunition from the US-trained Division 30 in northern Aleppo Photo: Reuters

Washington Free Beacon, by Morgan Chalfant, Sep/ 22, 2015:

U.S.-trained rebels that reentered Syria over the weekend after completing the Pentagon program allegedly gave their weapons to the al Qaeda affiliate in the region, al Nusra.

The Telegraph reported that rebels fighting with Division 30, the rebel group with whom the U.S.-trained Syrian fighters are partnering to combat the Islamic State, surrendered and handed over weapons and ammunition to members of al Nusra, according to members of the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

Abu Fahd al-Tunisi, who identifies himself as a member of al Nusra, wrote on Twitter, “A strong slap [in the face] 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 also handed over a very large amount of ammunition and medium weaponry and a number of pick-ups,” al-Tunisi added.

Another alleged al Nusra member, Abu Khattab al-Maqdisi, claimed on Twitter that the commander of Division 30 Anas Ibrahim Obaid said he tricked the U.S.-led coalition in order to obtain weapons.

“He promised to issue a statement … repudiating Division 30, the coalition, and those who trained him,” al-Maqdisi wrote.

U.S. Central Command said Monday that approximately 70 U.S.-trained Syrian rebels had reentered Syria after undergoing training in Turkey.

If confirmed, the U.S.-trained rebels relinquishing their weapons would represent another setback for the $500 million Pentagon program. In July, al Nusra kidnapped a number of U.S.-trained Syrian rebels when they entered Syria after becoming the first class to complete the training program. The al Qaeda affiliate was allegedly tipped off by Turkey. Currently, only four or five rebels from the first class of the training program are still fighting the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS) in the Middle East

The Pentagon plans to overhaul its effort to train rebels to fight the Islamic State.

***

Also see:

Petraeus Is Wrong: You Can’t “Peel” Jihadists Away From Jihad

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Town Hall, by Kyle Shideler, Sep 03, 2015:

The report earlier this week was that Former CIA Director and CENTCOM Commander General  was proposing to peel off “reconcilables” among Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, seeking to appeal to Al Nusra fighters who joined Al Qaeda, in the same way that Sunni tribes were convinced to join the “awakening” and oppose Al Qaeda. There’s no evidence to support the idea that Syrian rebels have flocked to Al-Nusra only because it represents the “strong horse” and not because they support Nusra and Al-Qaeda’s jihadist brand.

Al Nusra has been the lead element in numerous Syrian rebel alliances, including the Jaish-Al-Fateh (Army of Conquest), which seized control of the provincial capital of Idlib in March, and Ansar Al Sharia, a coalition of Syrian Islamist forces in Aleppo. Their allies have had little if anything to say about Jabhat Al Nusra’s repeated attacks against any U.S.-supported Syrian rebel force. Not just recently against Division 30, the unit of the sixty or so vetted Syrian rebels on which the U.S. has spent almost $500 million, but against other U.S-backed groups including the Hazm Movement and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front.

Indeed, among the Syrian rebel opposition groups as a whole, the vast majority have repeatedly shown that they prefer jihad in the name of establishing an Islamic state in Syria over any alliance with the United States. In 2012, large swathes of the Syrian opposition vowed “we are all Jabhat Al Nusra,” following the U.S. decision to designate the terror group for its ties to Al Qaeda.

Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin also reaches the conclusion that the U.S. cannot peel off Al Nusra fighters, but for the wrong reasons. He blames a lack of U.S. credibility, derived from a failure to assist “moderate” rebels in fighting the Assad regime. In his column, Rogin cites Mouaz Mustafa, from the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), who blames the U.S. lack of support for Syrian rebels leading to a credibility gap that causes them to prefer Al Qaeda to the U.S.

The reality is that SETF’s preferred rebels are the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda-linked militias who made up the Islamic Front. In 2013, the Islamic Front, led by Al Qaeda-linked Ahrar Al Sham, was approached by the Obama administration about working together to overthrow Assad, the group refused. The deal breaker? The Islamic Front would not stop working with Al Nusra. Most will not recall that it was the Islamic Front’s seizure of warehouses stocked with aid intended for U.S.-backed Syrian rebels, and not American stinginess, that led to the cut in U.S. and other Western allies aid to Northern Syria.

If the U.S. can’t convince the so-called “moderate” Islamists to break from Al Qaeda, how is it supposed to convince Al Nusra’s members to do so?

Al Nusra and the Islamist militias that make up the majority of the Syrian opposition are allies, not merely of convenience but of ideological conviction. And while they have faced setbacks in their repeated efforts to establish joint Sharia courts in rebel-occupied territory, that goal unifies them in a manner that no amount of U.S. money or influence can reverse.

The history of intervention efforts in Syria suggests instead of there being “reconcilables” inside Jabhat Al Nusra for the U.S. to co-opt, the reality is that there are not enough “reconcilables” outside of Al Nusra to co-opt either. The “Petraeus proposal” for Syria is yet another rehashing of the same tired proposal offered by elements of the U.S. foreign policy establishment who have sought to align U.S. interests with the so-called “moderate” Islamist factions in Syria, even if it means buddying up to Al Qaeda.

***

Secure Freedom Radio with KYLE SHIDELER, Director of the Threat Information Office at the Center for Security Policy:

  • Saudi Arabia’s role in supporting the global jihad
  • Iran’s assistance to the 9/11 hijackers
  • Petraeus’ proposal to use al Qaeda to fight ISIS
  • Existence of “No-Go Zones” in France

Explosive accusations against Turkey are exposing a major problem for Obama

REUTERS/Jason Reed

REUTERS/Jason Reed

Business Insider, by NATASHA BERTRAND AND MICHAEL B KELLEY, Aug. 25, 2015:

US-trained rebels allege that Turkish intelligence tipped off Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front and orchestrated the kidnapping of US-trained rebels entering Syria, Mitchell Prothero of McClatchy reports.

Though experts immediately advised skepticism of the accusations, the situation typifies the contradictory priorities in the faltering partnership between the US and Turkey against ISIS in Syria.

“All of this speaks to a bigger issue of how Turkey is perceived to have been nurturing the Islamist side of the Syrian insurgency at the expense of Syrian nationalists,” Aaron Stein, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider.

The US began training a small group of Syrian rebels known as the New Syria Force, or NSF, in early May, on the condition that they focus solely on combating ISIS while refraining from going after forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and his allies.

The program was intended to graduate as many as 2,000 moderate Syrian opposition forces, but only 54 have completed the program so far. In July, the Pentagon’s sent the first NSF graduates, known as Division 30, into Syria to fight ISIS.

The initiative failed spectacularly when the group was attacked by al-Nusra Front, the branch of Al Qaeda operating in Syria, immediately after it entered the country. The Division 30 Syria headquarters was subsequently bombed by Assad’s warplanes.

Map of Syria showing control by cities and areas held as of August 3 as well as a safe zone that the US and Turkey are trying to implement.

Map of Syria showing control by cities and areas held as of August 3 as well as a safe zone that the US and Turkey are trying to implement.

The US-backed rebels now claim that Turkish intelligence leaked information about the NSF’s arrival plans in Syria to al-Nusra. And a Turkish official told McClatchy that the leak would humiliate the Obama administration and push the US to go after both ISIS and Assad’s regime.

But some analysts quickly noted that a leak wasn’t necessary.

“The group itself had advertised its entry into Syria on social media, and it was well known that they were entering through Turkey,” Stein said.

Nevertheless, the accusations underscore Turkey’s alliances with rebel groups — specifically Ahrar al-Sham and al-Nusra — that the US opposes.

A member of al Qaeda's Nusra Front carries his weapon as he squats in the town of the northwestern city of Ariha, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area in Idlib province, May 29, 2015.

A member of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front carries his weapon as he squats in the town of the northwestern city of Ariha, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area in Idlib province, May 29, 2015.

“Our research has long pointed to a closer Turkish relationship to Ahrar al-Sham and Nusra than to IS. In that sense, this is not surprising,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider by email.

Stein has previously written about how Turkey “eventually reached out directly to al-Nusra, believing that the rebel group would be useful in achieving its ultimate goal: the overthrow of Assad.”

“Turkey also believed that it could potentially moderate the group and that al-Nusra would be good to work with as a ‘Syrian group’ fighting against the regime for the future of all Syrians,” he added.

The country has even closer ties to Ahrar, which is one of Syria’s largest rebel groups and the one with the most Turkish citizens. And although Ahrar is linked to Nusra, its stated political project is focused on toppling the Assad regime and establishing an Islamic state in Syria.

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FDD VP for Research Jonathan Schanzer discusses Turkey and the growing threat from ISIS. – The John Batchelor Show (Syndicated) – August 20, 2015

IS U.S. Going to Be Backed into Airstrikes Against Assad?

Center for Security Policy, by Kyle Shideler, August 3, 2015:

The U.S. is now redefining it’s support relationship with “Division 30″, following its embarrassing launch last week.  Several of the U.S. trained Syrian rebels and their commanders were captured by Al Qaeda’s Al Nusra Front just days after the group’s entry into Syria. The U.S. has allocated $500 million for the training effort, which has so far produced approximately 60 fighters.

The attack by Nusra apparently took the U.S. completely by surprise, according to current and former officials interviewed by the New York Times:

While American military trainers had gone to great lengths to protect the initial group of trainees from attacks by Islamic State or Syrian Army forces, they did not anticipate an assault from the Nusra Front. In fact, officials said on Friday, they expected the Nusra Front to welcome Division 30 as an ally in its fight against the Islamic State.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen like this,” said one former senior American official, who was working closely on Syria issues until recently, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential intelligence assessments. The Nusra Front said in a statement on Friday that its aim was to eliminate Division 30 before it could gain a deeper foothold in Syria.

That the attack was not anticipated is a particularly egregious failure, seeing as Al-Nusra has undertaken to co-opt or eliminate every militia in Syria which the U.S. supported. Yet somehow U.S. planners failed to foresee the obvious. Following the attack, the U.S has now announced that it will use airstrikes against any force attacking Division 30, including the Assad regime’s forces. This is a relaxation of a previous more restrictive policy, which was formed under concerns that the rebels would attempt to direct U.S. ordinance against Assad instead of the Islamic State.

The U.S.’s policy towards Islamic State in Syria fails to address the reality that Islamic State is simply not a priority for any other force operating in the Syria except the U.S., its Western allies, and perhaps the Kurdish PKK/YPG. Turkey’s entry into the conflict, celebrated by U.S. policy makers, is almost entirely directed towards damaging the Kurdish PKK and preventing an autonomous or independent Kurdistan in Syria. The Syrian rebel forces, the vast majority of whom are Islamist in orientation, if not, like al Nusra, overtly jihadist, and are focused on Assad, not Islamic State.

What does the U.S. intend to do if, as seems likely, Division 30 forces engage Assad’s forces, either alone, or in coordination with other rebels? Will the U.S. provide airstrikes if Assad’s forces launch a counter offensive? Will it provide air cover to defend Division 30 against Assad’s Air Force? As Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin noted in January, this was not an unforeseen problem.

DOES UNCLE SAM HAVE HIS BACK? PHOTOGRAPHER: KARAM AL-MASRI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

DOES UNCLE SAM HAVE HIS BACK? PHOTOGRAPHER: KARAM AL-MASRI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Then consider the deal for the use of Incirlik Airbase, which reportedly required the U.S. agreeing to Turkish effort to establish a “safe zone”,  along the border for Syrian rebels and refugees.

That agreement has been a long time desire of Turkey, Syrian rebels and pro-intervention U.S. lawmakers, and efforts to agitate for a no-fly zone have stepped up again in recent days.And while U.S. sources seek to emphasize the space is intended as an “anti-ISIS” safe zone, the real goal of the Turks and their rebel allies is, and has been since at least 2012,  a zone to shield forces from  Assad, and especially his air assets. In 2013, U.S. officials reportedly could not find a compelling national interest in establishing a no-fly zone over Northern Syria, and it 2014, National Security Advisor Susan Rice described a No Fly Zone or safe zone as “premature” or “a diversion”.

Yet it appears Turkey may now achieve this long-time objective. , thanks in part to the Islamic State.

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Former Defense Department spokesman, JD Gordon, joins former U.S. Congressman Michael Flanagan, to discuss President Obama’s approval of airstrikes in Syria that could lead to the U.S. taking sides in the Syrian civil war:

Also see:

The funny thing is the Kurds have the numbers, capability and the tenacity needed to defeat IS. So why is it we’re not doing more to support them and why are we still trying to convince ourselves that Turkey is a legitimate “ally?”