Rebels, al-Qaeda in fiercest fighting: US
NEW YORK - Reuters
Secretary of State John Kerry (R) shakes hands at the start of a bilateral meeting with Syrian Opposition Coalition Chairman Ahmed Assi al-Jarba on September 24, 2013 in New York City. Diplomats from around the world have descended on New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly. Mario Tama/AFP photoModerate Syrian rebels are engaged in their fiercest fighting to date with al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters on Syria’s northern and eastern borders, a senior U.S. State Department official said Sept. 24.
“There is a real firefight,” the official said of battles between al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) led by Salim Idriss.
The official said the FSA, which receives non-lethal U.S. support, was bringing in reinforcements and he said the State Department was looking at what more it might do to help the group, although he gave no details. Clashes pitting the al-Qaeda-linked ISIS and al-Nusra Front brigades against less effective but more moderate rebel forces have been intensifying recently, especially in opposition-held territory along Syria’s northern and eastern borders.
“It’s the hardest fighting we have ever seen between Salim Idriss’s elements of the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” said the official, who spoke to reporters after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad al-Jarba. “It’s a slog.”
“I would even go so far as to say that the extremists are actually doing the government’s work now, which was a point that the opposition made in the meeting with the secretary,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
During their talks, al-Jarba voiced the Syrian opposition’s disappointment at the U.S. decision not to bomb Syria for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, the official said.