September 18, 2013

Non-Sarcastic Good News in Syria: FSA Killing al Qaeda

Last week the leader of al Qaeda central, Ayman al-Zawahiri, instructed fighters in Syria not to collaborate with the Free Syrian Army. Over the weekend, al Qaeda forces openly clashed with the FSA.

Is it just wishful thinking to suppose that al Nusrah and al Qaeda are on the outs with the FSA? That we'll see the FSA cleaning house and ousting the more extremists among them. Or is this just another localized event with no broader implications?

Mahmoud al-Aboud, commander of the eastern front for the Free Syrian Army, told The Daily Beast on Sunday in a Skype interview that the fighting began Saturday with a car bomb. Killed in the attack, said Aboud, was the brother of Saddam al-Gamal, a local commander of Allahu Akbar Brigades, a group aligned with the FSA in al-Bukamal. After the bombing, Gamal’s men launched a counterattack with small arms fire that killed four fighters in the opposing rebel group....

But this weekend’s clashes, which came after a September 12 message from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri instructing his followers in Syria not to collaborate with the FSA councils, could mark a more violent stage for the opposition’s fractured ranks. “I think this message means al Qaeda forces are willing to take this fight against us into the public,” Aboud said. “I think this is happening now because there is a political vacuum.”

The thinking in the pro-arm the FSA camp is that after Assad fell then the guns would be turned on al Qaeda. It now seems likely that the various rebel factions are going to turn the guns on each other long before Assad falls.

But the basic problem is that even if the FSA does turn against al Qaeda after Assad falls, it's not clear that they have the means to getting rid of them so easily. Just today in Iraq a car bomb killed 35, probably by the same al Qaeda group now fighting in Syria. And this would be in a country with something resembling a functioning government.

Imagine what they could do in the chaos of statelessness. We need only look at Libya, Somalia, tribal Pakistan, and Yemen to see what these guys are capable of when there is no government to ensure that they operate only in the shadows.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 10:17 AM | Comments |