In the past week, reports have emerged of al-Qaeda’s Syrian faction, Jabhat al-Nusra, capturing a number of top members of the US-trained “Division 30,” also known as the “New Syrian Force.” The group is now reported to have been routed outright from its headquarters in northern Syria, and had to flee into Kurdish territory.
Reports have varied on how many of the NSF fighters al-Qaeda has captured and killed, with early reports suggesting it could be as many as 18. That’s a lot, since the US only managed to train 54 of them in the long-term effort. More may have been killed in the recent fighting too.
Al-Qaeda is saying that’s going to be a continuing issue, as they have no intention of working with any US-backed groups, and will resist all “agents of America.” Since the US began targeting them in airstrikes last year, al-Qaeda has gone after several rebel factions it has perceived as pro-US.
Though the US is said to be assuring the NSF of air support in any fights they get into with the Assad government, as well as envisioning them as a prominent part of their anti-ISIS strategy, it isn’t clear this force can even safely travel around Syria, let alone have any real impact in the ongoing civil war.