With all the U.S.-trained fighters dead, captured or missing and their leader in the hands of Al Qaeda, top U.S. commanders are scrambling this week to determine how to revive the half-billion dollar program to create a moderate Syrian army to fight the Islamic State.
The outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who viewed the force as a critical element of the military strategy in both Syria and Iraq, is conferring with top Pentagon officials behind closed doors to figure out what options are left for what is widely considered a policy and military failure, according to senior defense officials.
Sen. Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Appropriations Committee, returned from a trip to the region last week where he was briefed on the effort. His assessment of the program: “a bigger disaster than I could have ever imagined.”
U.S. foreign policy is such a disastrous joke, trying to keep up with it is essentially a full time job.
In case you still had any doubt as to why ISIS and other assorted terrorists seemed virtually unstoppable in Syria until Russia became involved, the following piece should clear things up.
From McClatchy DC:
A senior figure from a Syrian rebel group with links to al Qaida was allowed into the United States for a brief visit, raising questions about how much the Obama administration will compromise in the search for partners in the conflict.
Labib al Nahhas, foreign affairs director for the Islamist fighting group Ahrar al Sham, spent a few days in Washington in December, according to four people with direct knowledge of the trip and who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of U.S. relations with Syrian rebels.
His previously undisclosed visit is a delicate matter for both sides – the conservative Salafist insurgents risk their credibility with even perceived ties to the United States, and the U.S. government risks looking soft on screenings by allowing entry to a member of an Islamist paramilitary force.
National security analysts say U.S. authorities likely knew of Nahhas’ arrival – intelligence agencies for years have watched his group’s interactions with al Qaida’s Syrian branch, the Nusra Front.
Well sure, the U.S. government conned the American public into relinquishing its civil liberties and bombing Iraq into oblivion in the name of defeating al-Qaeda, but suddenly they’re no big deal. Got it.
That suggests that authorities granted him entry at a time when U.S. immigration authorities face political pressure to block visitors with even tenuous ties to extremist groups. Four months after Nahhas entered the United States on a European passport, U.S. authorities denied entry to a well-known Syrian humanitarian leader who had been approved to visit Washington to receive an award from international aid groups.
You just can’t make this stuff up.
A Syrian opposition official with knowledge of the matter said it shouldn’t have been surprising that he was allowed entry because Ahrar al Sham is not among U.S.-designated terrorist groups. He said Nahhas hadn’t planned meetings with any U.S. officials but wanted to speak with “third parties” who might be able to influence policymakers. He declined to elaborate on the “third parties;” others said the plan was to meet with lobbyists and Middle East researchers.
The State Department declined to answer whether any U.S. officials knew in advance or expressed reservations about Nahhas’s presence in Washington, or whether State Department officials had assisted his entry.
U.S. officials have long struggled with how to deal with Ahrar al Sham, one of the largest insurgent armies in Syria.
The group’s ultimate vision is Islamist rule for Syria and its old links to al Qaida are no secret: One of the group’s founders, Abu Khalid al Suri, was memorialized by al Qaida leader Ayman al Zawahiri after his death in a bombing.
Ahrar continues to frustrate the United States and its allies with its operational coordination with al Qaida’s Nusra Front, including a joint attack this month in the Syrian village of Zara that resulted in what human rights group called the massacre of at least 19 civilians from the Alawite minority. An Ahrar official told McClatchy the operation was defensive and not sectarian in nature; he said fighters perceived foreign powers weren’t stopping regime advances in the area.
Even with circumstances of the killings in dispute, the participation of Ahrar al Sham in the operation – alongside al Qaida loyalists and while a truce was in effect – makes it all the more difficult for Nahhas to convince the world of his group’s commitment to working in the mainstream.
Ahrar’s militiamen – estimates of its strength range from 7,000 to the 27,000 the group itself claims – are considered skilled, disciplined and well equipped. In several strategic locations, they are the force preventing a rout of the U.S.-backed rebels by Nusra Front or the Islamic State. They also have boosters in U.S.-friendly Qatar and Turkey, a NATO ally.
Wait a minute. Qatar and Turkey are “U.S. friendly?” Could’ve fooled me.
Let’s discuss Qatar first, from the post, America’s Disastrous Foreign Policy – My Thoughts on Iraq:
But in the years they were getting started, a key component of ISIS’s support came from wealthy individuals in the Arab Gulf States of Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Sometimes the support came with the tacit nod of approval from those regimes; often, it took advantage of poor money laundering protections in those states, according to officials, experts, and leaders of the Syrian opposition, which is fighting ISIS as well as the regime.
“Everybody knows the money is going through Kuwait and that it’s coming from the Arab Gulf,” said Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies. “Kuwait’s banking system and its money changers have long been a huge problem because they are a major conduit for money to extremist groups in Syria and now Iraq.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been publicly accusing Saudi Arabia and Qatar of funding ISIS for months. Several reports have detailed how private Gulf funding to various Syrian rebel groups has splintered the Syrian opposition and paved the way for the rise of groups like ISIS and others.
Of course, Turkey’s support for ISIS is well known. See:
While we’re on the topic of clownish U.S. foreign policy, let’s examine some new revelations from the never-ending disaster that keeps on giving: Afghanistan.
From The Wall Street Journal article, Afghan Government Secretly Fosters Taliban Splinter Groups:
SHINDAND, Afghanistan—The Afghan government is giving financial and military support to a breakaway Taliban faction, according to some Afghan and U.S. coalition officials, in an effort to sow rifts within the insurgency and nudge some of its leaders toward peace talks.
The effort comes as the U.S. military conducted an airstrike inside Pakistan that American officials said likely killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, potentially setting the stage for another leadership struggle that could fragment the group further in the coming days. The Taliban, which usually respond promptly to requests for comment, hadn’t issued a statement by late Sunday.
Senior Afghan and U.S. diplomatic, military and intelligence officials, including several who had roles in creating the program, described its details and said that resources provided by the U.S. were used to support it.
The Afghan intelligence agency is leading the drive to recruit new Taliban assets, Afghan and U.S. officials said. The agency relies on the U.S. for most of its funding and is still mentored by the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA declined to comment for this article.
Wherever there’s mischief, the CIA is never far away.
The program carries significant risks. Recruited Taliban commanders, who have yet to commit to peace talks with the government, may turn against Afghan and foreign forces in the country with the ammunition supplied to them, Afghan and U.S. security officials said.
But Afghan officials familiar with the program said they are willing to run such risks if the potential outcome is a weakened Taliban.
Thanks for clearing that up.