Syria’s al-Qaeda captures US-Linked Free Syrian Army Commander, troops

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The 30th Infantry Division of the moderate Free Syrian Army says that the al-Qaeda-linked Support Front captured one of its commanders and several troops the day before yesterday. Some 56 members of Division 30 were among the 70 fighters so far trained in a multi-million dollar CIA and then Pentagon program. It has only been able to vet 70 of the rebel fighters who volunteered for the training as actually “moderate.”

The kidnapped commander is Col. Nadim al-Hasan, a Turkmen from Manbakh east of Aleppo who had defected from the Syrian Arab Army to join the rebels. He is alleged to have been trained in Turkey to lead a “Turkmen Front.” (Turkmen are an ethnic minority in northern Syria who speak a language related to Turkish). Another FSA officer taken was Farhan Jasim, known as Abu Hadi. Reports of 7 to 18 troops kidnapped have also circulated.

It is being alleged that the US on Friday morning bombed the al-Qaeda HQ in Izaz, where the abductions took place:

The left of center Beirut newspaper Al-Safir (The Ambassador) wrote, “The Division issued a communique deploring the abductions and requested from what they called ‘our brothers in the Support Front’ to ‘release the colonel and his companions as quickly as possible, avoiding shedding the blood of Muslims and out eagerness to maintain a united front, and avoiding increasing fronts with side struggles among brothers who have a common goal.”

Obviously, having US-trained fighters captured by al-Qaeda in Syria is embarrassing to the Pentagon and the Obama administration. The Department of Defense pushed back against the story Thursday afternoon, insisting that none of its trainees has gone missing. But all that means is that the troops and the commander abducted from Division 30 were not themselves drilled by the US. That they were captured still reflects badly on their 56 colleagues who had been so trained. (The Department of Defense may also mean to say that the particular unit that was taken had been Turkish-trained, not US trained– see below).

Al-Qaeda in Syria appears to have targeted them precisely because of their ties to the US. Indeed, the operation might have been ordered by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of the masterminds of the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Al-Nusra_Front_fighters,_Syria
The Support Front: h/t Wikipedia

Al-Safir (The Ambassador) zeroed in on another angle of the story. journalist Abdullah Sulaiman Ali, writes. In its announcement protesting the al-Qaeda act of aggression, it called on its “brothers” in that organization to release the Division 30 personnel, using the language of truce. Al-Safir is scathing. So lets get this straight, The US is training Division 30 troops, and then they go out and do a truce with al-Qaeda?!

What kind of “moderates” is the Pentagon training, Ali asks, whose priority is creating a common front with al-Qaeda “brothers”? Ali says that this language contradicts what Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told CNN on Monday, that the Support Front remains outside the circle of “moderate groups.”

Ali says that Col. al-Hasan and his Division 30 entered Syria after training in Turkey via the Bab al-Salama checkpoint and took up a position in the city of Izaz, which is in an areaa controlled by the Army of Conquest, an alliance of the Salafi Free Men of Syria with al-Qaeda in Syria. Since they were operating in an al-Qaeda-held area, he said, it was easy for them to be abducted. He implies that up until the capture, they were clearly engaged in tactical coordination with al-Qaeda against the troops of Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo.

He quotes Abu Omar al-Munbaji, who knows abductee Farhan Jasim, as having written at Facebook that he was surprised by the capture, since Division 30 had met at the al-Qaeda HQ with Jabhat al-Nusra only three days before. He said that al-Qaeda turned on Division 30 because it decided they are American agents.

Ali says his sources say Turkish intelligence was surprised by the incident and has contacted the Support Front to see why they captured the men and to see if the dispute can be resolved.

12 Responses

  1. I cannot imagine reasons why the Obama WH is not becoming much more deeply involved than it already is in this little Syrian paradise.

    And I fully support all the Repubs demanding swift, decisive US ground action right now. Just as long as it is they and theirs who do so.

  2. I will admit how I am throughly confused to whom is fighting whom in this Syrian Iraqi war. Between all of the acronyms, and who maybe a moderate, and who isn’t, I am having a difficult time deciding who to root for. I though about placing little toy soldiers on a spread out map of Syria and Iraq, and maybe spray painting my little army guys each a different color to match their allegiance to who they represent. Nice idea, but what color would I paint each group, and would there be enough colors to choose from? Seriously, is it me, or what? I know this, that inside Syria and Iraq there are innocent people suffering.

  3. Rotf Professor Cole said:
    “…of the *moderate* Free Syrian Army…”

    There’s nothing ‘moderate’ about them, even by regional standards.

  4. oh, the irony.

    some of the leaders of the support front,
    the guys who captured our guys 2 days ago,
    were part of the first cohort of “moderates” that the CIA had Eric Prince train in Jordan in late 2010.
    .
    So far, the USA has trained and equipped leaders in every single faction fighting in Syria, except for the al-Assad Syrian Army, and maybe one or two tiny splinter groups.
    .

    • According to Iraqi intelligence officials quoted in an Israeli periodical, Abu Muhammed al-Joulani, the leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, was born in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, is a college graduate in his 30s or early 40s who attended medical school for two years in Damascus and who served time at Camp Bucca as an inmate in Iraq where he taught classical Arabic to fellow inmates. He split with the Islamic State in Iraq over their renunciation of allegiance to al-Qaeda:

      link to timesofisrael.com

      I found it interesting that the al-Nusra Front leader appears to have lived under IDF occupation and, later, imprisoned by the U.S. Department of Defense at a sprawling camp in Iraq and how those experience may have shaped his worldview.

  5. I wrote just six months ago that the U.S. must avoid:
    a) sending even one bullet into the nebulous fray with its uncountable sides, each with a different objective in wanting to rid the country of its dictator; b) training troops of any persuasion because they claim to be “anti-Assad.”

    No one has sorted out the chaotic sides; therefore, none should have been trusted to carry out any short-sighted WH view on how to assist in the removal of the dictator. We have ‘no skin’ in that game; we don’t know why each side clashes with the other like so many balls on a pool table; above all, we have no notion of the next phase of Syria’s tortured people when the dust has settled.

    Can the U.S. government tell us, the financing public, what the victors will do to improve the lives of the Syrians? The WH has not uttered a word on the subject, yet that is the crucial question for all the world, beginning with the Syrian people. Does the WH think the Free Syrian Army will host a convention of competing political views to see how to develop a new and free system of government?
    “Stay out of Syria. They have all the bullets they want.”

  6. May I remind everyone that each trainee cost the U.S. tax payers an average of $4million (per person!!!!!) There is no solution to this quagmire but supporting Assad and dumping the delusional AKP.

  7. Speaking with Lebanon’s Daily Star, Bassel Idriss, commander of an FSA-run rebel brigade, openly discussed the group’s joint operations with ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front.
    “We are collaborating with the Islamic State and the Nusra Front by attacking the Syrian Army’s gatherings in … Qalamoun,” Idriss said. “Let’s face it: The Nusra Front is the biggest power present right now in Qalamoun and we as FSA would collaborate on any mission they launch as long as it coincides with our values.” Lets face it, there is no moderate opposition to Assad in Syria. Foreign Minister Lavrov had it right when he said recently “There are no good terrorists and bad terrorists” they are all the same the US thinks it can support the “good” terrorists to achieve its regime change objectives in any country that does not obey its diktats.

  8. Several points:

    The al-Nusra Front had been designated by the U.S. State Department as an FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organization) several years ago and has admitted complicity in no less than 57 suicide bombings within Syria – a number of other countries have followed suit in likewise identifying Jabhat al-Nusra as a terror group.

    Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had, also, identified a sub-group within the al-Nusra Front – known as Khorasan – that were hardcore foreign al-Qaeda fighters that had entered Syria for purposes of jihad.

    That said, Moaz al-Khatib, a political moderate and then-chairman of the Syrian National Coalition, the entity that America and Western nations recognize as the Syrian government-in-exile, had urged the U.S. State Department to rescind its terror organization listing for the al-Nusra Front.

    Secondly, Israel has had documented ties to Jabhat al-Nusra and were giving them valuable assistance – including aerial bombing runs against Syrian army positions opposing the al-Nusra Front.

    Thirdly, the Free Syrian Army has had an ongoing “love-hate relationship” with the al-Nusra Front – often praising them for their battlefield prowess and coordinating military operations with them – but often fighting them as well – especially after the U.S. Air Force has bombed al-Nusra positions.

    Lastly, there have been accounts that suggesting that Muhammed al-Joulani, the Jabhat al-Nusra chief, may renounce allegiance to al-Qaeda due to their inability to provide financial assistance coupled with the fact such allegiance has inhibited many would-be Qatari and other Gulf states benefactors from otherwise donating to Jabhat al-Nusra.

    Here are some links:

    link to centerforsecuritypolicy.org

    link to securitymiddleeast.com

  9. This whole situation is in constant flux within which any effort to identify a stable element is more or less doomed. You don’t, however, need to rise to Dr Cole’s 30,000 feet, a few hundred will do, before recognising a unifying plateau of antipathy to the US in pretty well all its manifestations; hegemonic primarily, but also cultural, moral, and ideological, all of which are synthesised in the US support for Israel, and in consequence fed by events in the occupied territories, not so much the most recent events themselves, distressing though they are, but by the confirmation implicit in the nature of the US response to all such depredations. And not even from any one response in isolation but from their cumulative confirmation that in the end the US is working to encourage dissension in the Arab world for purposes of its own. Opposing armies in the Somme in WW1 managed a truce one Christmas and we could be looking at something akin. It has no lasting value but it will surface from time to time and won’t readily go away.

  10. Funny as it was obamas CIA that created the IS, Etc. years ago, to help fight Assad of Syria.

    IS as CIA Child

    Defense Intelligence Agency: “Establish a Salafist Principality in Syria”, Facilitate Rise of Islamic State “In Order to Isolate the Syrian Regime”
    Declassified DIA document

    While initial mainstream media reporting is focused on the White House’s handling of the Benghazi consulate attack, a much “bigger picture” admission and confirmation is contained in one of the Defense Intelligence Agency documents circulated in 2012: that an ‘Islamic State’ is desired in Eastern Syria to effect the West’s policies in the region.

    Astoundingly, the newly declassified report states that for

    “THE WEST, GULF COUNTRIES, AND TURKEY [WHICH] SUPPORT THE [SYRIAN] OPPOSITION… THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME…”.

    The DIA report, formerly classified “SECRET//NOFORN” and dated August 12, 2012, was circulated widely among various government agencies, including CENTCOM, the CIA, FBI, DHS, NGA, State Dept., and many others.

  11. They have been able to “vet” only 70 “moderates” so far. Hint: no one is either a moderate or a terrorist until the US bombs someone in their family. But it is equally true that no one supports the US unless they’re getting an especially good payday. And even then….

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