US, Turkey realize al-Qaeda threat in Syria – a bit late
The diplomatic solution to the ongoing Syrian civil war made baby steps last week while the government and opposition have at least managed to hold face-to-face talks last week and agreed to discuss the so-called Geneva Communique - a blueprint for a transition period and eventually for peace in the country.
While the Syrian government’s acknowledgement of the U.N.-backed Geneva Communique would count as “success” for a negotiated solution, hopes are slim that the two sides would make significant progress in the second round of talks. Even if they would, its effect on the ground is highly doubtful, since the real war has been nearly overtaken by al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria.
The Syrian government has been voicing “terrorism” concerns since the start of the war. It includes the Western-backed “moderate” anti-regime forces in its “terrorism” threat, thus its warnings have fallen on the deaf ears.
Apparently, not anymore. Two intelligence reports – penned by the U.S. and Turkish intelligence separately – have pointed out the rising al-Qaeda threat in the country, particularly areas bordering Turkey. While the American officials are expecting an attack on the United States by foreign militants trained by al-Qaeda in Syria, their Turkish counterparts also have a similar fear that al-Qaeda’s Syrian arm would launch attacks on the Turkish soil with trucks passing through the border. A recent attack by the Turkish military was also the crystallization of these fears.
What is grim in the U.S. report is the areas controlled by al-Qaeda militants risks turning into violent tribal-run zones in Pakistan – the safe haven for the group’s leadership. Turkish officials have also voiced the same concerns, while admitting the Western-backed opposition’s armed group, Free Syrian Army (FSA), has weakened after the ongoing battles with Islamists.
According to U.S. intelligence, there are at least 75,000-110,000 rebels fighting against the Damascus regime. Nearly 26,000 were labeled as “extremists,” at least 7,000 foreigner militants are fighting on the side of al-Qaeda and some of them are holding European and American citizenship. That makes the Western countries vulnerable to possible attacks by militants leaving Syria for a more eyebrow-raising mission in the West.
While the Western states have been pinning their hopes to the peace talks that so far are moving nowhere to eliminate the “extremist” threats spilling from Syria onto their soils, it is not hard to see there is no power shielding them from a disastrous attack. Turkey is sitting at the hottest spot, compared with its Western allies, since its long border with Syria is being controlled by Islamists.
Echoing similar concerns, both U.S. and Turkish reports have shown the concerns are growing in Washington and Ankara. But what is missing is the al-Qaeda threat under the very nose of Turkey has been created thanks to the Turkish and U.S. government’s support to the anti-regime forces in Syria.
Just like the Western-created jihadists rulers of Afghanistan, and this later became a host of al-Qaeda and brought a more costly war. With Syria replacing Afghanistan as a new and better host, it has been a little late of a call.