U.S.-backed Syrian rebels surrender to al-Qaeda-linked militia
I'll say this for the Obama administration: they sure can pick 'em.
As the Washington Post reports, this is a disaster and highlights the absolute incompetence of the administration's Syria policy.
The Obama administration’s Syria strategy suffered a major setback Sunday after fighters linked to al-Qaeda routed U.S.-backed rebels from their main northern strongholds, capturing significant quantities of weaponry, triggering widespread defections and ending hopes that Washington will readily find Syrian partners in its war against the Islamic State.
Moderate rebels who had been armed and trained by the United States either surrendered or defected to the extremists as the Jabhat al-Nusra group, affiliated with al-Qaeda, swept through the towns and villages the moderates controlled in the northern province of Idlib, in what appeared to be a concerted push to vanquish the moderate Free Syrian Army, according to rebel commanders, activists and analysts.
Other moderate fighters were on the run, headed for the Turkish border as the extremists closed in, heralding a significant defeat for the rebel forces Washington had been counting on as a bulwark against the Islamic State.
"Moderates" defecting to al-Qaeda? Yeah...real moderate.
But it's OK, says WaPo. Al-Nusra is "less radical" than Islamic State:
Jabhat al-Nusra has long been regarded by Syrians as less radical than the breakaway Islamic State faction, and it had participated alongside moderate rebels in battles against the Islamic State earlier this year. But it is also on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations and is the only group in Syria that has formally declared its allegiance to the mainstream al-Qaeda leadership.
Saying that Al-Nusra is less radical than the Islamic State is like saying electrocution is less painful than being thrown into a pit with a pack of wild dogs.
Our Syria policy – if there ever was a policy worthy of the name – has blown up. And it gets worse, as Patrick Poole writes at PJ Media:
One Arabic language report indicates that 600 Hazm fighters defected, with 400 in Qalamoun and 200 up north (HT: Aymenn al-Tamimi). Whoever is doing the vetting of the “vetted moderates” for the State Department is clearly not doing a good job.
But perhaps more important is that both SRF and Hazm were armed and trained by the U.S., with those weapons now falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda.
As the Telegraph report cited above indicates, SRF had been armed with GRAD rockets and TOW missiles. Another report indicates that SRF tanks and other arms were captured following SRF’s retreat.
I reported here at PJ Media that Hazm had publicly condemned U.S. airstrikes on ISIS and al-Nusra as “an attack on the revolution.”
Both groups also received the hearty support of the Washington, D.C., foreign policy establishment, with Harakat al-Hazm being praised as “rebels worth supporting” and “a model candidate for greater U.S. and allied support, including lethal military assistance,” and SRF being hailed as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies.”
Those chances are looking pretty bleak at the moment.
With the election dominating the news, this catastrophe will receive short shrift in the media. Maybe it would have anyway, given their penchant for hiding bad news about Obama. But we are putting our people's lives on the line to fight this war, and it would be helpful if we had some kind of coherent policy to back them up. Whom are we fighting? Why are we fighting? What's our long-term strategy?
Basic questions that our incompetent State Department and clueless president are unable to answer.