Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media on the surrender and defections of U.S.-backed Syrian rebel troops to Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate), most notably the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, which the DC foreign policy establishment was hailing as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies,” and Harkat al-Hazm, the first group to receive heavy weaponry from the U.S. earlier this year.
Now Mona Mahmood of the Guardian reports that elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are defecting to ISIS:
US air strikes in Syria are encouraging anti-regime fighters to forge alliances with or even defect to Islamic State (Isis), according to a series of interviews conducted by the Guardian.
Fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamic military groups are joining forces with Isis, which has gained control of swaths of Syria and Iraq and has beheaded six western hostages in the past few months.
Some brigades have transferred their allegiance, while others are forming tactical alliances or truces. Support among civilians also appears to be growing in some areas as a result of resentment over US-led military action.
“Isis now is like a magnet that attracts large numbers of Muslims,” said Abu Talha, who defected from the FSA a few months ago and is now in negotiations with other fighters from groups such as the al-Nusra Front to follow suit.
As the article notes, rebels perceive the U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra as a “war on Islam”:
[FSA fighter Murad] and his fellow fighters were awaiting the arrival of Isis militants in Homs, he added. “The moment Isis fighters touch the soil of the Homs countryside, we will be the first to fight with them at the front. This [US-led] military coalition is not against Isis, it is against entire Islam.”
This sentiment is hardly aberrant among the so-called “vetted moderate” Syrian rebels. As I reported back in September, the U.S.-backed Harakat al-Hazm issued a statement at the outset of the U.S. anti-ISIS bombing campaign saying it was “an attack on the revolution.”
And I’ve also previously reported that many of these U.S.-backed and armed “vetted moderate” groups have shifting alliances that include fighting with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.
As far back as July there were reports that large groups of FSA units were defecting to al-Qaeda and ISIS, surrendering their U.S.-provided weapons along the way, and that other FSA units were forging peace deals and fighting alongside al-Qaeda and ISIS in some areas.
While most of the D.C. foreign policy establishment was promoting the arming of the so-called “vetted moderate” FSA, a few of us were openly skeptical of any effort to back so-called “moderate jihadists.” Whether by Republicans or Democrats, such efforts in the past have always ended in tears for the U.S. and led to increased threats to our national security.
This policy in Syria has been so disastrous the Obama administration has been openly distancing themselves from their “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel partners.
Remarkably, as I noted earlier this month, congressional Republican leadership jumped on board with Obama’s policies at the very moment he was abandoning them, voting to spend another $500 million to arm and train the “vetted moderates.” Meanwhile, some GOP figures who supported Obama’s policies of supporting and arming the FSA since 2011, namely John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have been unapologetic in the face of the collapse and defections of their “vetted moderate” friends.
It remains to be seen whether the new Congress that will be seated in January will follow the folly of the current Congress in providing training, money and weapons to the FSA. But expect these defections by the FSA and other U.S.-backed groups to ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra to continue.