Much has been made recently of the growing size and influence of Al-Qaeda’s Syrian auxiliary Jabhat al-Nusra, especially compared to the relatively small, US-backed factions of Syrian rebels.
That disparity is getting worse all the time, with the latest reports claiming many hundreds of additional fighters, and in one case an entire faction in Raqqah claiming 750 fighters pledging loyalty to al-Qaeda.
The pro-US factions have become increasingly loud about their opposition to al-Qaeda, and seem to be gearing up for a formal war-within-a-war, but it’s increasingly apparent that this is a fight they’re not going to win, as the numbers and the reality on the ground point to the momentum overwhelmingly on the side of jihadists, not secularists.
Though the US insists its support will eventually revitalize the secular fighters, so far it doesn’t seem to be putting a dent in al-Qaeda’s momentum. As the two sides grow more and more at odds, expect the trend to increase of smaller factions choosing sides, and al-Qaeda seems much better positioned to attract and absorb them.