US Syria strategy falters with collapse of rebel group

By REUTERS
March 5, 2015 09:23
1 minute read.

ISTANBUL/BEIRUT - The Hazzm movement was once central to a covert CIA operation to arm Syrian rebels, but the group's collapse last week underlines the failure of efforts to unify Arab and Western support for mainstream insurgents fighting the Syrian military.

A blow to US moves to aid rebels, the dissolution of Hazzm also highlights the risks that a new Department of Defense program could face in training and equipping fighters in Jordan, Turkey and Qatar.

US officials plan to train thousands of Syrian rebels over three years. The program is expected to begin this month in Jordan and focuses on battling the hardline Islamic State group rather than President Bashar al-Assad.

Hazzm's collapse has shown how such efforts will prove difficult in a country where insurgents often battle each other and arms have fallen into the hands of hardline groups.

An onslaught by al Qaida's Syria wing, the Nusra Front, last week forced Hazzm into dissolution, its members swallowed by Jabhat al-Shamiyya, a mainly Islamist alliance. It was the second time in four months that Nusra had crushed a Western-backed rebel group.

Nusra is now considering cutting its ties with al Qaida in a re-branding exercise backed by Qatar and some other Gulf states that will bring in more funds, sources say.


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