An ongoing trend of Syrian militants leaving the so-called Free Syrian Army and joining ‘better-funded’ radical groups was reversed in January, with another country’s intelligence coming to help them in their war to topple the Syrian government, a new report suggests.
“The Free Syrian army commander,” writes the Los Angeles Times in a report, who saw some 2,000 of his crew joining better-funded radical groups, saw things changed “in February when an intelligence operative from a country he refuses to name handed him an envelope full of cash — salaries for his remaining combatants.”
“It’s a good amount of money; I can keep my fighters,” the commander said, as scented smoke from his arghileh [water pipe] obscured a scar across his face, the product of a battle in Syria, just 16 miles north of this drab Jordanian town.
The report says, Syrian opposition’s so-called “southern front” has become the focus of a reinvigorated US-backed initiative to bolster faltering militants now losing ground in their three-year battle to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Syria has long been insisting that the ongoing conflict in the country is a foreign-charged war rather than a revolution or uprising.
There are many foreign militants in the country and one of the main allies of the US-backed FSA is al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front, a radical group which has been involved in extremist acts of violence in the war.
The LA Times says with the recent peace talks stalled, “It is here that US officials and their Persian Gulf allies, notably Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are recalibrating their approach in what many view as a last chance to turn around the civil war that has begun to tilt heavily in favor of Assad.”
But recent infighting between numerous fractions of armed groups in Syria which the FSA has failed to bring together, is making things hard for Washington to pursue that policy.
“The foreign powers are hoping to re-energize what remains of the US-backed Free Syrian Army as a ‘moderate’ alternative to extremists with such groups as Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front,” the report says.
It adds “the cash-stuffed envelopes meant to secure the loyalty of rebel fighters are an essential component of the embryonic southern campaign, according to interviews in Jordan with opposition commanders.”
Though cash has begun to flow, southern commanders say they have yet to witness a significant influx of armaments, especially the portable anti-aircraft missiles that militants in the north have long sought to counter Syrian army’s air power.
This hasn’t been given to them by their foreign supporters for fears of the weapons falling into the hands of extremists who could target civilian airliners.
A recent British defense study showed that about 100,000 militants, fragmented into 1,000 groups, are fighting in Syria against the government and people.
The extracts of the study by defense consultancy, IHS Jane’s, were published on September 16.
IHS Jane’s estimates that some 10,000 militants are fighting for groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and the rest fight for different militant groups.
Source: Al Alam