Foreign Islamic extremists “intent on turning Syria into an autocratic theocracy have swollen the ranks of rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad and think they are waging a ‘holy war,'” Reuters reports a surgeon treating rebel fighters in Aleppo as saying
Jacques Beres, co-founder of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, has spent time working as a doctor in embattled cities of Syria on multiple visits. He tells Reuters that on his last visit it was more apparent than ever that the opposition fighters are made up of largely of foreign jihadists.
“It’s really something strange to see. They are directly saying that they aren’t interested in Bashar al-Assad’s fall, but are thinking about how to take power afterwards and set up an Islamic state with sharia law to become part of the world Emirate,” Beres said.
The presence of al-Qaeda fighters and other affiliates jihadist groups among Syria’s rebel opposition has been understood, even by US officials, practically from the beginning. One US intelligence estimate found as many as a quarter of the 300 different rebel groups in Syria may be fighting under the banner of al-Qaeda, according toRep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
But people like Mr. Beres that have been on the ground in Syria estimate the number is much higher. Still, the Obama administration has been sending aid and funneling weapons to the rebel fighters for months. This policy was just ramped up recently when Obama sent more spies and diplomats to the Turkish border to help train and organize the rebels.
For months the CIA has had people there on the ground funneling weapons from third party allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They were there to keep the aid coming from the US and its allies from going to Islamic extremists looking to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
But the process is made up of untrustworthy, third-party sources and intelligence officials have recently told the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times that the truth is that the US doesn’t know who is getting the money and weapons.
The Obama administration runs the risk of helping to bring these extremists to power if and when the Assad regime finally does collapse. Moreover, as happened in Afghanistan after the US proxy war there with the mujihadeens, the potential for deadly blowback is very real.