Reports are emerging this morning that a battalion of Faylaq al-Sham fighters that had previously been vetted as “moderates” by the U.S. has defected to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the recently re-branded al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
This is yet one more episode of U.S.-vetted Syrian rebel groups defecting to U.S.-designated terrorist groups in recent years. Just a few weeks ago, I reported here at PJ Media that U.S.-supported Free Syrian Army troops were openly allied with a group the State Department had designated a terrorist organization just one week before.
News of the defection of the Muhammad Rasoolullah Brigade of Faylaq al-Sham operating around Idlib initially appeared on Twitter:
— Nasser Rahman (@rah622) October 19, 2016
— Aymenn J Al-Tamimi (@ajaltamimi) October 20, 2016
Faylaq al-Sham, backed by Turkey, is currently involved in the push against the Islamic State:
— AliCemilKaya® (@AliCemilKaya_) October 15, 2016
Faylaq al-Sham has its roots in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, and its member have been branded “Syria’s moderate Islamists.” Undoubtedly, the “experts” will lament this defection as a shock brought about by military necessities on the ground.
But if the so-called “vetted moderate” groups that receive U.S. weapons later turn terrorist, what is the point of the so-called U.S. “vetting” anyway?
The “experts” may also downplay this defection by claiming that Jabhat Fateh al-Sham cut ties with al-Qaeda, but nothing could be further from the truth. All the group did was rebrand — with permission from al-Qaeda.
In fact, one of the top Jabhat Fateh al-Sham leaders present at the rebranding announcement was Abu Faraj al-Masri, a longtime lieutenant of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Masri was killed in a U.S. drone strike earlier this month.
But the myth of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham’s separation from al-Qaeda continues to circulate:
Guys, Nusrah didn’t leave AQ. Jolani never said that. It was more a move of rebranding. Not that difficult to understand.
— Caleb Weiss (@Weissenberg7) July 29, 2016
This whole notion that Jabhat Fatah al Sham (frm. Nusrah) actually split from al Qaeda needs to stop, guys. It’s simply false.
— Caleb Weiss (@Weissenberg7) September 10, 2016
Meanwhile, defections from Faylaq al-Sham and Free Syrian Army units to terrorist groups may continue in the ever-shifting alliances on the ground in Syria.
The Long War Journal has more background on Faylaq al-Sham, including documenting their past coordination with designated terrorist groups.
For more than two years I’ve been reporting here at PJ Media on the escalating catastrophe of the Obama administration’s Syria policy that has been anchored on the “vetted moderates” that keep defecting to terrorist groups, working with terrorist groups, and continue losing their U.S.-provided weapons to terrorist groups:
Sept. 13, 2014: Yet Another U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Makes Peace with ISIS
July 20, 2016: CIA-Vetted, “Moderate” Syrian Rebels Behead Child Soldier
The ability to affect any positive change in Syria is compromised by the fact that we have no reliable partner in the country — notwithstanding the so-called “vetted moderates” — and a growing likelihood that American troops on the ground there may be killed without any national strategic purpose.