ASPEN, Colo.- Radical Islamist rebels will gain sway over the many disparate factions opposing Syrian President Bashar Assad unless they are checked, and the country's civil war could last years, a top Pentagon intelligence official said on Saturday.
David Shedd, the deputy director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, did not advocate any form of intervention by the United States or its allies, saying that was up to policymakers.
But his bleak assessment of the dangers posed by the Islamist al-Nusra Front and al Qaeda's Iraq-based wing, as well as the prospects for a prolonged conflict, could bolster advocates of greater involvement by the United States and its allies.
Addressing the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, Shedd said he counted at least 1,200 groups in the opposition. He said many of the groups were preoccupied with strictly local grievances, like a lack of potable water in their villages.