Buried in this Washington Post article on the recent fighting between a PKK faction on one side, and al Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria — the Al Nusrah Front and the Islamic State of Iraq — on the other, is confirmation that other groups are allied with al Qaeda in the fighting in northern Syria.
Three groups, identified as the Ahrar al Sham (a known Syrian Islamist group that is sympathetic to al Qaeda and has fought alongside them in the past), the Ahfad al Rasoul Brigade, and the Islamic Kurdish Front, banded together and announced they would fight together with the Al Nusrah Front against the Kurdish group in northern Syria. One of those groups, the Ahfad al Rasoul Brigade, is funded by the Qatari government. From The Washington Post (which missed the Ahfad al Rasoul Brigade’s ties to Qatar):
However, Wednesday’s statement from four opposition groups portrayed the clashes as a fight against the PYD rather than Kurds as a whole.
“In our war, we do not discriminate against Arabs or Kurds, we fight everyone who helped this criminal regime, and we consider them a legitimate target for us, and for all the rebel battalions,” the statement said. It added that the Kurdish militia had “crossed the line” when it captured Ras al-Ayn last week, pushing out fighters with the jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra.
In addition to Jabhat al-Nusra, the statement was signed by the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham, the Ahfad al-Rasoul Brigade and the Islamic Kurdish Front, in an indication of a widening conflict on the opposition side. A video posted online also showed a military convoy from the Farouq Brigades, which the cameraman said was heading to Hasaka to fight “the dogs of Assad and their helpers” — although it did not explicitly mention the Kurds or the PYD.
Here is a quick background on the Ahfad al Rasoul Brigade, from Wikipedia. Note that Qatar backs this large rebel force, and the leader of the Ahfad al Rasoul Brigade is on the US-backed Arms Committee for the Free Syrian Army-dominated Supreme Military Command. This is the same group that the US government will be arming and funding.
The Ahfad al-Rasul Brigade (Arabic: لألوية أحفاد الرسول, meaning Grandsons of the Prophet), also spelled as Ahfad al-Rasoul is a Syrian rebel group fighting against the Syrian government in the Syrian civil war. It is one of the few brigade alliances that operate independently of the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian Liberation Front, or the Syrian Islamic Front and is considered the largest one, with about 15,000 fighters. It has been funded by the Qatari government.
It is composed of several battalions, most notably Al-Haqq battalion, Shuhada al-Jolan Battalion, and Suqour al-Jolan Battalion. In early September 2012 it announced the formation of the Suqour Jabal al-Zawiya battalion, giving it a presence in Idlib.
Ahfad al-Rasul took part in the September 2, 2012 bombing that targeted the Syrian Army General Staff building in Damascus. Its leader, Ziad Haj Obaid, is on the Arms Committee for the Supreme Military Command.
The US government is fooling itself if it believes it can reliably vet Syrian rebel groups to ensure that arms supplied by the US do not fall into al Qaeda’s hands. Additionally, the US is relying on countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia to ensure that weapons and aid do not fall into the wrong hands.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has already claimed that the Free Syrian Army, the darling of US policymakers, has sold the ISIL arms. Although the claim cannot be confirmed, it certainly isn’t difficult to believe, given that al Qaeda’s affiliates have fought alongside Free Syrian Army units numerous times in the past.