US to aid Syrian groups that support al Qaeda's affiliate


The US State Department announced today that it will provide nonlethal aid to two Syrian rebel groups, the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Free Syrian Army. Both of these groups support and actively fight alongside the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, which is al Qaeda's affiliate in the war-torn country.

The State Department announced that it would provide $60 million in direct aid to the Syrian Opposition Coalition, an alliance of Syrian groups that has come out in support of the Al Nusrah Front after the US designated it as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and al Qaeda in Iraq's affiliate in Syria in December 2012.

"This money will be used particularly to enable the SOC to help local councils and communities in liberated areas of Syria expand the delivery of basic goods and essential services, and to fulfill administrative functions, including security, sanitation, and educational services," an unnamed State Department official told reporters in a briefing today.

Additionally, the State Department said that "the United States will look for opportunities to work with the ... Supreme Military Council ... to provide concrete, nonlethal support to the Free Syrian Army."

"This will include things like military rations to feed hungry fighters and medical supplies to tend the sick and the wounded," the official continued.

But as documented by The Long War Journal numerous times, the ostensibly secular Free Syrian Army often fights alongside or under the command of the Al Nusrah Front. The two groups have overrun Syrian military bases and they have even conducted a suicide attack in concert.

The push to back the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Free Syrian Army came after newly appointed US Secretary of State John Kerry met with the SOC's president, Ahmed Moaz al Khatib, in Italy.

Al Khatib is a Syrian opposition leader, who, just one day after the US added the Al Nusrah Front to its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, urged the US to drop the designation, citing "ideological and political differences."

"The decision to blacklist one of the groups fighting the regime as a terrorist organization must be re-examined," al Khatib said in December 2012.

"We can have ideological and political differences with certain parties, but the revolutionaries all share the same goal: to overthrow the criminal regime" of President Bashar al-Assad, al Khatib continued.



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READER COMMENTS: "US to aid Syrian groups that support al Qaeda's affiliate"

Posted by gb at February 28, 2013 7:30 PM ET:

Gee, I wonder how Sec State Kerry feels about aiding rebel forces fighting against the "reformer" Assad? Lol..

Posted by mike merlo at February 28, 2013 11:12 PM ET:

Big mistake. Best to let these people pummel each other to a state of exhaustion or close to it. Keeping Iran in this mess is the near equivalent of the Soviet Union being entangled in Afghanistan during the 80's. Iran is certainly in a bit of a resource squeeze which will continue to increase the longer this drama plays out. Hezbollah is experiencing depletion of resources & manpower. The Forces opposing Assad & those assisting him are also surely experiencing resource & manpower issue's. The US interests are best served by mainly staying out of this affray with the occasional spike of aid just to keep all of the participants involved. Neither side is a friend or ally of the US so this is a near best case scenario. Besides Kerry trying to make play on this situation is just him grandstanding

Posted by Stephanie at March 1, 2013 2:50 AM ET:

Ok, this makes me really upset!
How can they be so naive????
How many more videos do you need of Al Qaida leaders voicing their support for the Syrian Free Army before you realize, hmm, well, maybe we shouldn't be fighting on the same side as them!?!! yuh think??????

Posted by Barlowmaker at March 1, 2013 7:04 AM ET:

An empty suit leading an empty foreign policy.

Posted by John at March 1, 2013 2:11 PM ET:

mike merlo

-Iran is certainly in a bit of a resource squeeze which will continue to increase the longer this drama plays out.

-Hezbollah is experiencing depletion of resources & manpower.

I have been hoping for this & would like to beleive this. No sources though.


Debka reported a meeting in Moscow for March 5th. All ised must have somewhat depleted resources & not be making any gains.

I hope Qatar bleeds its' treasury dry. There are involved in Syria & Mali.

Posted by Jim Cornelius at March 1, 2013 3:59 PM ET:

Obviously, an effort to gain standing in the post-Assad endgame. Unfortunately, any action or inaction has massive downside risks and little likelihood of producing a positive outcome.

There may be strategic benefits to keeping Iran and Hezbollah embroiled, as Mike Merlo suggests, but that means serious regional destabilization, possibly tipping Lebanon back into civil war. And it stokes an ongoing and worsening humanitarian crisis. All of which is liable to unfold whether we put our thumb on the scales or not.

I certainly don't envy those who have to chart a policy course through these waters.

Posted by SlayerMill at March 1, 2013 5:29 PM ET:

This is what happens when an NVA sympathizer during the Vietnam War becomes Secretary of State. Smile America! 60 million of your hard earned tax payer dollars going directly to your enemies. Did I mention one of those enemies being the one's who took our towers back in 2001? Considering the fact that liberal media has continuously pushed the White House' agenda about Al Qaeda being "decimated and on the run", it's no surprise the general U.S. public knows nothing about this. It's refreshing to see our government actively helping our enemies establish another stronghold from which they can plan and launch another wave of attacks inside the U.S. I mean what else would they have spent that $60 million on? Reforming our failing education system, improving U.S infrastructure, helping inner city at-risk-youth? No, the Syrian toilet is a much better place for that money. Don't worry America, it may take 10 years or so, but you'll see a nice return on this investment in the form of attacks inside the U.S. Why do we continue to elect these clueless morons? No wonder China is taking our place as the world's hegemonic superpower.

Posted by Daniele Raineri at March 2, 2013 3:10 AM ET:

I'm just back from Syria. I think that "stayin' out of that mess" is strengthening al Qaeda. When the revolution started in Spring 2011 extremist groups were marginal. Now they are one fifth of the fighting force against government. If the civil war keeps going, they'll become 100%. You have to buy back the good guys. That's why you pay billions in Pakistan, Egypt and Afghanistan. To keep people from joining the wrong side.

Posted by Bob at March 2, 2013 7:59 AM ET:

Soviert Union - Assad Regime
(Oppress the)
Afghans - Syrians
(Who after US intervention end up)
Taliban - ???????

This turned out really well last time.

Posted by Eric at March 2, 2013 12:06 PM ET:

The US cannot simply keep its hands out of the problems in Syria. Syria has always had a widespread influence in the levant, and should that influence be kept within the orbit of Al Qaeda and Iran, the results in Lebanon and Israel may be more than the Iran-Israeli peace can endure. We must alter that outcome in favor of the freedoms we uphold in our own homelands, on behalf of the people of Syria - good and bad. When the ship of state starts shooting demonstrators - no matter which country you are living in, its time to put up a fight against the regime within government that is doing the killing. The US did not receive official sanction from the UN Sec Council for support of the rebellion by force of arms. No matter: it is a confrontation of superpowers. Russia, China and Iran are all providing military and economic assistance to the Assad regime. Iran and Russia managed to grab world headlines getting caught in the act of doing it, while the Chinese have managed it quite discreetly.

Tough break for the doomsayers who railed this already, but The Syrians are very diverse as a people, and they do not easily choose sides together with one another, so Al Nusrah are just a notable group of misfits and extremists who fight really well as far as most Syrians are concerned. They have enjoyed a suppression of Al Qaeda through the Assad government, paid for by tacit cooperation with Al Qaeda for over a decade, and the Syrian people do not just yet want them cast out of the country. Those same people, writ large, would like the US come to their assistance as well.

This is indeed unique in our history, that America would actively shoulder the support of a rebel army without much of a rebel government authority, and find itself supporting the same side as one of our sworn enemies. But were we backing the other guy, we would be co-mingled with the Russians instead.

That's who wants a share of power in Syria - pretty much everyone - good and bad.

We should be there as a friend of the Syrian people, no matter whomsoever offers to help. It puts aL Qaeda in a bad spot with the Syrians if they try to bite the hand doing the giving anyways.

These rebels are doing the world a service: They are breaking Iran and Hezbollah nicely. That rates a multimillion dollar round of cheers.

Posted by blert at March 2, 2013 8:23 PM ET:

Syria -- as currently constituted -- is a fake nation.

Its borders were chosen by the French and British almost a century ago -- while wrapping up WWI and the Ottoman Empire.

They deliberately created a 'five tomcats in a bag' -- shaken and beaten -- 'solution.'

For much of history, eastern and northern Syria was unified with Iraq. That is why the ethnicities are distributed so. Adding Kurds and Sunnis to Iraq would go a long way towards balancing that polity.

Assad's Alawite crew could carry on their craft in the Levant... sort of a Lebanon, north.

Greater Damascus, the southwest, might merge with Jordan.

Such a scission could end the trauma... and permit the players to survive... with their essential homelands intact.

Posted by SlayerMill at March 2, 2013 8:28 PM ET:

The people of Syria deserve peace and prosperity, there's no doubting that. Unfortunately, whether we get involved or not, civil war will ensue the moment Asad is officially out. It'll be no different than the civil war following the Soviets withdrawl from Afghanistan in 1989. Whatever government the international community decides to prop up will be viewed by jihadists as illegitimate and will be violently opposed. Should a jihadist group assume power, they'll have to fight it out with all the other jihadist groups wanting power. As for another minority group like the Alawites assuming power, forget it, it won't happen. This isn't even accounting for the reprisals which are certain to follow once Asad is out too. I wouldn't want to be a member of any of the minority groups inside Syria once Asad is out, especially the Alawites. The Druze, Christians, and tiny minority of Jews in Syria, are also going to be prime targets for the jihadists, who'll likely be a Salafi subscribing group. Asad needs to go, there's no doubting that. Unfortunately the likely alternative at this point will possibly destabilize the entire Levant. I'm not saying the Levant was totally stabile to begin with, but ousting Asad is going to create a level of uncertainty which can't be measured at this point. If I were Israel I would increase my efforts ten-fold to wall off the entire Golan Heights.

Posted by DonnX3 at March 2, 2013 11:32 PM ET:

Why is the U.S. wasting $60 million dollars to aid a terrorist group, who when this civil war is over will only use that money to wage war against us? The fighting in Syria is a dream come true perfect scenario. Let these arabs fight and kill each other for as long as possible. while they are busy killing one another, they cannot direct any attacks against the United States. As an active duty infantry marine who has been to Afghanistan, and seen how much of a waste of money trying to help the Afghan people is, why should we invest more money into another predominantly muslim country when we have so many problems here at home that need our attention and money? This scenario just reeks of our nation giving money to a side we back, who in return down the road use the money we gave them to bite us in the ass. Just like whats going on in Afghanistan now!

Posted by Moose at March 4, 2013 2:39 AM ET:

I agree with mike merlo. I've advocated for some time now for a divide-and-conquer approach with the use of proxy groups to achieve our objectives. This worked very well for the British in the Middle East and southeast Asia during its colonial days. It also worked well against Islamist insurgencies in places like Algeria.


@Daniele

The Arab Spring took everyone, including the jihadists, by surprise. Imo, it should have been expected that the extremists would hijack the movement. They're willing to fight while the liberals/secularists in the Arab world are too busy being wannabe Westerners to have the balls to fight back with the same fervor. It took some time for the jihadists to set up the networks that send fighters and supplies into Syria, but that's been well-established now. I think that's why groups such as al-Nusra have grown since the beginning of the revolt. Btw, we're fooling ourselves if we think we can buy our friends.

Assad isn't falling anytime soon. This is a factional war between Sunni and Shia that's more akin to the civil war in Lebanon in the 1970s and 80s. The Alawites, Christians, and other minorities haven't forgotten how they were treated before Hafez al-Assad came to power and have the more recent example of what happened to Shiites in Iraq to look at. This is an existential fight for them.

Posted by Knighthawk at March 5, 2013 7:42 PM ET:

" That's why you pay billions in Pakistan, Egypt and Afghanistan."
---
Are you suggesting that's worked out so well in recent years?