Until now, there was mostly speculation and conjecture that among the Syrian "rebel" parties assisted by the Obama administration and the west in their attempt to overthrow Assad, are various groups either supported or comprising of factions consisting of Al Qaeda, Jihadists and other extremist Islamic group. That speculation is now fact according to extracts from a British defense study published in Monday's Daily Telegraph, according to which Jihadists and members of hardline Islamist groups make up almost half of forces fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. As AFP reported, the analysis by defense consultancy IHS Jane's, due to be published in full later this week, puts the number of rebel forces at around 100,000. And half of this number are combatants on an ideological crusade against the west, who are partially or fully affiliated with Al Qaeda, and who will always seek a sponsor when carrying out whatever military operation is most profitable at any given moment. With Made In The USA weapons that is.
The good news: internal splintering and lack of cohesion has resulted into these fighters splitting into as many as 1,000 bands since violence flared two years ago, the study concluded. Which is also the bad news: as Putin warned in his Op-Ed, various mercenary groups armed with Western weapons can now, or at any point in the future, find a new source of funding, if and when Saudi and Qatari interest in the conflict wanes, and use these same weapons against the very source of aid: the US itself, ultimately resulting in the same snafu that converted Osama bin Laden a "freedom fighter" into the most wanted man in America.
Of the rebel forces, IHS Jane's estimates that around 10,000 are jihadists fighting for groups linked to Al-Qaeda and another 30,000 to 35,000 are hardline Islamists, who differ from jihadists in that they are concentrated only on the Syrian conflict, and not on the global Islamist fight.
"The insurgency is now dominated by groups which have at least an Islamist viewpoint on the conflict," Charles Lister, author of the analysis, told the British newspaper.
"The idea that it is mostly secular groups leading the opposition is just not borne out.
"If the West looks as though it is not interested in removing Assad, moderate Islamists are also likely to be pushed further towards extremists," he warned.
The study is based on interviews with militants and on intelligence estimates.
So the next time Obama takes the podium and makes the case for accelerating the aiding and arming of such mercenary "rebels" who are nothing more than ideological jihadists, perhaps someone can ask how long before US weapons are used against US citizens on US soil?
This should also explain why the administration is so very much against using "boots on the ground" - after all why put American soldiers' lives in jeopardy when you can get Al Qaeda to do your fighting for you. If only until they turn on you, of course.