A Syrian rebel group that received TOW missiles as part of a CIA program officially partnered with a Syrian al-Qaeda branch today, announcing the new Tahrir al-Sham alliance.
As I reported in late November here at PJ Media, Nour al-Din al-Zenki was posting videos of their fighters firing CIA-provided TOW missiles.
And in the waning hours of his presidency, Obama bombed an al-Qaeda training camp that was jointly operated with Zenki, killing several of their fighters.
Now, just days later, Zenki is part of Tahrir al-Sham with Jabhat Fath al-Sham.
English-language translation of statement announcing Tahir al-Sham from pro-AQ jihadi channel: pic.twitter.com/XC48NZpHPx
— Thomas Joscelyn (@thomasjoscelyn) January 28, 2017
This has been in the works for at least several days as rebel groups have been vying for power, fracturing the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA):
FSA groups fighting AlQaeda today: Suqoor &Faylaq alSham.
FSA neutral so far: Free Idleb army/Fursan alHaq.
FSA siding with AlQaeda: Zinki
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) January 24, 2017
As others have noted, now al-Qaeda-allied Zenki is also supported by NATO ally Turkey:
#Turkey-backed #jihadist groups al-Zenki, #JaishAlSunna, Liwa al-Haqq & Ansar al-Din merge with al-#Qaida in #Syria to form Tahrir al-Sham.
— Konstantin Krammer (@KonstantinKlug) January 28, 2017
Members of Turkish proxy grps such as Sultan Murad & Zanki Brigades use Turkish flag on their uniforms #twitterkurds #Syria #EuphratesShield pic.twitter.com/av6VShSDJw
— curdistani (@curdistani) January 25, 2017
The al-Qaeda-allied Zenki rebels, who were deemed “vetted moderates” by the CIA, were not only using CIA-provided TOW missiles recently, but according to one report were in active communication with top State Department officials back in September:
U.S. diplomats had been in regular communication with these factions before, during and after the failed ceasefire. According to rebel sources, the core opposition factions with whom U.S. Special Envoy Michael Ratney has remained in contact include the Damascus-centered Army of Islam; opposition faction and Islamist movement Ahrar al-Sham; major Aleppo-area factions Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki and the Levant Front; and several others. The short list includes factions long considered outside the bounds of U.S. support or, in the case of Nour al-Din al-Zinki, that have been cut off from U.S. backing. All of them, however, would need to be on board for a successful ceasefire.
That the Obama State Department was still in communication with Zenki so recently is problematic not just because of their growing cooperation with Jabhat Fath al-Sham. Back in July, news that Zenki beheaded a child solider on video became public.