7 US-trained Syrian rebels abducted last month defect to al-Qaeda
Seven members of "Division 30," the U.S.-trained rebels fighting the Islamic State, who were abducted last month by Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, have been released after swearing allegiance to the terrorist group.
Division 30 was the first group of rebels trained by the U.S. in Turkey to enter the war. They were immediately set upon by al-Nusra, who killed 5 and scattered 18 others to the winds.
The moderate rebel group, known as Division 30, is the first faction to graduate from a US-led training programme in Turkey which aims to forge a fighting force on the ground in Syria to fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
Last month, al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra kidnapped Colonel Nadim al-Hassan, Division 30's commander, and at least several of his companions only a few days after they had crossed from Turkey to the town of Azaz on the Syrian-Turkish border.
Nusra Front then stormed Division 30’s headquarters, killing five members and wounding 18 others in an offensive that left the group all but crippled.
The Nusra Front said at the time it abducted the rebels because they were allied with the US.
The Division 30 statement made after the release described Nusra Front fighters as "brothers" in a sign the US allies are capitulating to the Islamist group.
The kidnapping and attack on Division 30, came a few days after the US and Turkey announced the outlines of a deal to help rebels push Isil back from a strip of territory it controls along the Syrian-Turkish border, replacing it with more moderate rebels backed by Washington and Ankara.
In an interview with the Telegraph in the southern Turkish town of Gaziantep on Sunday, Division 30 spokesman Ammar al-Wawi confirmed that it was detainees' eleased on Sunday, adding that the deal was brokered by the father of one of the detainees.
“[The father] communicated with Jabhat al-Nusra, and his son and those with him were released,” said al-Wawi.
General Lloyd Austin, commander of CENTCOM and the man in charge of training the rebels, told a congressional committee last week that "only 4 or 5" of the original 30 members of Division 30 were still fighting following the al-Nusra attack on their headquarters. Since then, an additional 70 fighters have entered Syria from Turkey. You have to wonder about morale when the U.S.-backed fighters hear of their comrades defecting to the enemy.
The president's Syrian policy is in the toilet, with no sign it can possibly succeed. But the administration is apparently doubling down on the $500-million program to train 5,000 rebels by the end of the year. They say they will continue to vet "moderate" fighters and train them – even though all that vetting didn't do any good with the first batch of rebels we sent into Syria.
You have to wonder about the intelligence and competence of the people who dreamed up this incredibly stupid scheme.