Al Qaeda Militants Seize Town From Moderate Rebels in Northern Syria

Credit: Voice of America News/wikimediaCredit: Voice of America News/wikimediaAl Qaeda militants have seized control of a town in northern Syria near the Turkish border from the Free Syrian Army. The fighting between the two groups opposed to Assad prompted Turkey to close one of its border gates to Syria. The recent clash highlights not only the diversity of Assad’s opposition but also the influence jihadist fighters are having on the conflict in Syria.

The news comes a few days after Obama waived federal regulations on American arms sales in order to send non-lethal military assistance to some of Assad’s opposition. The U.S. and other Western countries have been hesitant to send lethal military assistance to some members of Assad’s opposition because of the possibility that weapons sent to selected rebels could end up in the hands of Al Qaeda-linked groups.

After the chemical attack near Damascus last month the Obama administration tried to downplay the number of extremists fighting within Assad’s opposition. While testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Secretary of State John Kerry said that the number of extremists fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda-linked group fighting against the Assad regime, is not as high as had been previously estimated:

SEN. JOHNSON: How do we know that Hezbollah, because they've been so cooperative with the Assad regime -- how do we know that they already don't have access to chemical weapons? Do we have any feel for that at all?

SEC. KERRY: I think we need to talk about that in our classified session. But let me just say to you that in terms of the opposition numbers, you see ranges up to 80(,000), 90,000, 100,000 in total opposition. You see ranges from -- well, I don't want to go into all the numbers, but in the tens of thousands in terms of operative, active combatants. The -- I've seen some recent data on the numbers of the extremists in al-Nusra. They're actually lower than former expectations.

Even if there are, as Kerry says, fewer extremists among Assad’s opposition than previously thought it is worth remembering that rebels with links to Al Qaeda are among the most effective and experienced fighters within Assad’s opposition.

From the AP:

According to Charles Lister, an analyst with HIS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre in Britain, al-Qaida-linked fighters make up between 10,000 and 12,000 of the insurgency's estimated 100,000-member force but wield far more influence because of their better discipline and battle experience.

Jihadis "represent a comparatively small minority of the total insurgent force, but as a result of superior finances, organizational capacity and individual fighter subservience to tight command and control structures, they have been able to exert far more of an impact on the conflict than some larger and more moderate insurgent forces," Lister said in a statement.

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  • Paul.||

    So, a kind of radical corporate takeover. The guys who started the business in their basement are being pushed out by the WalMart of radicalism.

  • Drake||

    Well, the guys who start the business in the basement WANT to eventually sell to Walmart or IBM for millions. (IBM was dumb enough to lease from Gates)

    This is more like what seems to happen to any revolution in the Middle East or from the Left. The moderates end up dead and the crazies take over. Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka for example.

  • PapayaSF||

    The prime example is how the Bolsheviks hijacked the Russian Revolution from the larger groups like the Mensheviks and Constitutional Democrats. In revolutions and civil wars, the most ruthless group often ends up on top, regardless of size.

  • Paul.||

    I totally agree. The basement guys may actually be happy to hand it over.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Wait, which side are we on again? I though al Qaeda was bad.

  • John||

    They got better.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Weird. I have this vivid recollection of our president dancing and beating his chest about personally killing some guy who worked for al Qaeda. As an executive or PR guy or something.

  • John||

    See, Obama reformed them.

  • Tman||

    Let him be clear already.

    He always asks to be clear, so let's let him.

    Obama: "Thank you for letting me be clear. I have no fucking idea what I'm doing and in three years Michelle and the girls and I are building a bunker in Hawaii and you can all go fuck yourselves. God Bless America."

  • plusafdotcom||

    You are so fucking RIGHT about that part, Tman....

  • Bardas Phocas||

    They're "evolving".

  • Jordan||

    Somehow, I doubt that the moderates are all that moderate.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    They will saw off priests' heads using sharpened knives instead of dull ones. It's the sensible position for moderate jihadists.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    DECAPITATION YOU CAN BELIEVE IN!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Hope and Rage.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    Yes we execute

  • playa manhattan||

    We are the jihad we've been waiting for.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    Incinerate Wall Street! (not sure if it's a joke)

  • Snark Plissken||

    WIN(whip infidels now)!

  • Almanian!||

    Nobel Peace Prize!

  • PD Scott||

    Excuse me, but all Kerry said was there were fewer extremists in *al-Nusra*. That doesn't mean that there aren't a whole lot of other people who we would consider extremists among the rebel forces.

    Here's an article on that from Business Insider.

    "The complex reality is that there are as many as 1,000 individual armed rebel groups, each of which fall somewhere on the spectrum from al-Qaeda ideologue to secular Syrian Arab Army defector."

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Excuse me, but all Kerry said was there were fewer extremists in *al-Nusra*.

    Well, he's answering a question about whether Hezbollah has CW's so it's hard to figure out exactly wtf he is talking about.

  • jasno||

    BRIAN: Are you the Judean People's Front?
    REG: Fuck off!
    BRIAN: What?
    REG: Judean People's Front. We're the People's Front of Judea! Judean People's Front. Cawk.
    FRANCIS: Wankers.
    BRIAN: Can I... join your group?
    REG: No. Piss off.
    BRIAN: I didn't want to sell this stuff. It's only a job. I hate the Romans as much as anybody.
    PEOPLE'S FRONT OF JUDEA: Shhhh. Shhhh. Shhh. Shh. Shhhh.
    REG: Stumm.
    JUDITH: Are you sure?
    BRIAN: Oh, dead sure. I hate the Romans already.
    REG: Listen. If you wanted to join the P.F.J., you'd have to really hate the Romans.
    BRIAN: I do!
    REG: Oh, yeah? How much?
    BRIAN: A lot!
    REG: Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front.
    P.F.J.: Yeah...
    JUDITH: Splitters.
    P.F.J.: Splitters...
    FRANCIS: And the Judean Popular People's Front.
    P.F.J.: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
    LORETTA: And the People's Front of Judea.
    P.F.J.: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
    REG: What?
    LORETTA: The People's Front of Judea. Splitters.
    REG: We're the People's Front of Judea!
    LORETTA: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
    REG: People's Front! C-huh.
    FRANCIS: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
    REG: He's over there.
    P.F.J.: Splitter!

  • CampingInYourPark||

    SEC. KERRY: I think we need to talk about that in our classified session. But let me just say to you that in terms of the opposition numbers, you see ranges up to 80(,000), 90,000, 100,000 in total opposition. You see ranges from -- well, I don't want to go into all the numbers, but in the tens of thousands in terms of operative, active combatants.

    Is he saying that the number of people revolting is...maybe 100,000, in a country with a population of 24,000,000? How is this supposed to resemble anything like a popular uprising? What am I missing here?

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    How is this supposed to resemble anything like a popular uprising? What am I missing here?

    There are more rebels. They're just resting.

  • PD Scott||

    Silent Majority!

  • PapayaSF||

    To be fair, the percentage of American colonists who fought the British was pretty small, too.

  • Almanian!||

    Yeah, but that was, like, 100 years ago...plus...WHITE.

    So - utterly different.

  • Calidissident||

    Yeah, in any rebellion, the number of men fighting is not going to be close to a majority, even if most support the effort. Considering slightly over half the population is female, plus boys too young to fight, men to old or disabled to fight, Assad supporters and neutral people, men who support the effort but for whatever reason (fear, convenience, need to look after family, inability to physically join a rebel group, etc.) don't join, 100,000 isn't really all that low

  • ||

    The news comes a few days after Obama waived federal regulations on American arms sales in order to send non-lethal military assistance to some of Assad’s opposition. The U.S. and other Western countries have been hesitant to send lethal military assistance to some members of Assad’s opposition because of the possibility that weapons sent to selected rebels could end up in the hands of Al Qaeda-linked groups.

    China doesn't seem to be worried. Why is that? Is it because they'll sell arms to anyone who wants to buy them and has the money, but otherwise minds its own business and stays out of the way? What a crazy concept!

  • BakedPenguin||

    I doubt that. There is a significant Islamic population in and around Urumqi, and they've been having some terrorism issues, too.

  • ||

    I would not give a life insurance policy to any Muslim in Urumqi.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    They're sort of like State Militias.
    They have the right to bear arms.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    Will the CIA give me free weapons if I join a crank Christian militia and start bombing post offices in the name of Jesus?

  • PapayaSF||

    You silly rabbit, don't you watch the news? US citizens with weapons is a great danger.

  • Jerry on the boat||

    This better be the last time the CIA provides weapons to just some Arab guy with a beard.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    We could at least sell them the weapons at extortionate prices. If you're going to manufacture weapons for every lunatic with a cause, you might as well make some money in the process.

  • plusafdotcom||

    HC... the Libtards would object, and insist that the munitions be sold at or below cost, so as not to "hurt middle-class workers and the unemployed..."

  • Oso Politico||

    What is a 'moderate rebel'? - sort of like a mild hot pepper?

  • Almanian!||

    Al Qaeda Militants Seize Town From Moderate Rebels in Northern Syria

    OK.

    Remind me again, which one is "our bastard?"

  • Ken Shultz||

    Funny* how the moderate rebels don't really exist--unless it's time to start announcing their demise.

    *No, not funny, ha ha.

  • Adam||

    It looks like Ankara is actually hosting Al-Qaeda near the Syrian border. I wonder if this is the "New Syria" Kerry's been lecturing us about.

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