Syrian Rebels Armed and Trained by US Surrender to Al-Qaeda

Courtesy of Ruth Sherlock @ The Telegraph:

Two of the main rebel groups receiving weapons from the United States to fight both the regime and jihadist groups in Syria have surrendered to al-Qaeda.

The US and its allies were relying on Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front to become part of a ground force that would attack the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

For the last six months the Hazm movement, and the SRF through them, had been receiving heavy weapons from the US-led coalition, including GRAD rockets and TOW anti-tank missiles.

But on Saturday night Harakat Hazm surrendered military bases and weapons supplies to Jabhat al-Nusra, when the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria stormed villages they controlled in northern Idlib province.

The development came a day after Jabhat al-Nusra dealt a final blow to the SRF, storming and capturing Deir Sinbal, home town of the group’s leader Jamal Marouf.

The attack caused the group, which had already lost its territory in Hama to al-Qaeda, to surrender.
“As a movement, the SRF is effectively finished,” said Aymen al-Tammimi, a Syria analyst. “Nusra has driven them out of their strongholds of Idlib and Hama.”

The collapse of the SRF and attacks on Harakat Hazm have dramatically weakened the presence of moderate rebel fighting groups in Syria, which, after almost four years of conflict is increasingly becoming a battle ground between the Syrian regime and jihadist organisations.

For the United States, the weapons they supplied falling into the hands of al-Qaeda is a realisation of a nightmare.

It was not immediately clear if American TOW missiles were among the stockpile surrendered to Jabhat al-Nusra on Saturday. However several Jabhat al-Nusra members on Twitter announced triumphantly that they were.

Also the loss of a group that had been held up to the international media as being exemplary of Western efforts in Syria is a humiliating blow at the time that the US is increasing its military involvement in the country, with both air strikes and training of local rebels.

In Idlib, Harakat Hazm gave up their positions to Jabhat al-Nusra “without firing a shot”, according to some reports, and some of the men even defected to the jihadists.

In Aleppo, where Harakat Hazm also has a presence, the group has survived, but only by signing a ceasefire agreement with Jabhat al-Nusra, and giving up some of their checkpoints to the group.
Activists circulated the ceasefire document on social media last week.

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Members of the al-Qaeda affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra at a checkpoint in Aleppo, Syria Continue reading