Free Syrian Army Brigades Join Al-Qaeda Affiliate

by Andrew C. McCarthy

As recounted in my column this weekend, the Obama administration and top congressional Republicans continue to insist that it is in American interests to become ever more enmeshed in the Syrian civil war and to back opposition fighters against the Assad regime, even though doing so necessarily entails providing material support to terrorists — a serious felony violation of federal law.

In the column and in a Corner post earlier this week, I noted that Senator Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, claims that the United States “should be doing everything we can to support the free Syrian opposition” even though that means “we understand some people are going to get arms that should not be getting arms.” As if on cue, we learn that brigades of the Free Syrian Army — the “free Syrian opposition” force Beltway Republican leaders would have us support — are joining one of the local al-Qaeda affiliates, al-Nusrah. Bill Roggio breaks the story at the Long War Journal:

Two brigades of the Free Syrian army that operate in Raqqah province have joined the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, one of two official al Qaeda affiliates in Syria.

The Raqqah Revolutionaries Brigade and the God’s Victory Brigade have pledged loyalty to the Al Nusrah Front over the past several days, Reuters reported.

The Raqqah Revolutionaries Brigade is said to have more than 750 fighters in its ranks. The size of the God’s Victory Brigade, which announced its merger with the Al Nusrah Front on Facebook, was not disclosed, but it is said to have “15 battalions.” Battalions often have anywhere from dozens to hundreds of fighters.

The two brigades were part of the Free Syrian Army as recently as Sept. 9….

Although we are constantly told that the FSA is the “moderate” alternative to the jihadists — a bipartisan Beltway fantasy that carefully avoids mentioning prominent Muslim Brotherhood participation in the opposition — Bill’s report explains that, while there have been disputes between some FSA elements and al Qaeda affiliates, these get mediated with an eye toward continuing cooperation. Bill adds:

Syrian rebels and entire units are known to have defected to al Qaeda’s affiliates and allies. In May, a Free Syrian Army commander said that over 3,000 FSA fighters as well as whole units joined the Al Nusrah Front over the course of several months.

In March, a Chechen commander who leads more than 1,000 foreign fighters formed the Jaish al-Muhajireen wa Ansar, or Army of the Emigrants and Helpers, and integrated several Syrian fighting units into the ranks. The Brigade of Khattab and the Army of Muhammad joined the Muhajireen Army.

The merger of two FSA units with al Qaeda comes as the US and European nations are seeking to step up the arming of Syrian rebels in the wake of a chemical attack outside Damascus that is said to have been carried by President Bashir al Assad’s forces. But as Islamist forces continue to grow and are now dominating the insurgency, the ability of the US to properly vet FSA units and prevent weapons from falling into the hands of al Qaeda and its allies becomes more difficult.

If the U.S. government supports the Syrian opposition, it is knowingly supporting anti-American jihadists, plain and simple. It does not matter that the intentions of enabling American officials are noble, or that they really, really hope some “moderate” or even pro-Western opposition force, capable of defeating both Assad and the “rebel” Islamic-supremacist elements, will miraculously appear. To contribute arms and other assets that one knows will end up in terrorist hands is a crime. Worse, it betrays the obligation to protect American national security.