In reading the comprehensive and enlightening essay by Sarah Khan, “Demographic composition of foreign Jihadist militants in Syria” – USA Study,
I am noticing disturbing insults hurled Sarah Khan’s way for simply stating uncomfortable facts on the demographics of the Syrian rebels. Her facts disturb our preference for easy solutions. Some bristle if we suggest the Syrian rebels against evil Assad, might not all be pure. Critics tweet or leave comments that, pressed with choosing a side, display self-righteous indignation at the suggestion that the composure of the rebels includes Salafist Deobandi Saudi-funded Islamists. They then unfairly argue that those of us who attempt to elucidate for clarity may not be aware that over 90,000 have died at the hands of Assad and the Syrian Army. This is an acknowledged reality; it is wrong, and neither Sarah Khan, nor I, in our essays denied those horrid facts on the ground.
I am beginning to believe that the nuance and perspective required of today’s geopolitics in order to sort out facts and fiction is becoming a common exercise in global obfuscation perpetuated by an uninformed press. The complexities required of understanding events in the Arab Spring, Iran, Egypt, Bahrain, and other civil war conflicts in Turkey and now, Brazil, in order to “pick a side,” require more than TV news, or biased blogs to understand. Middle East conflicts to South Asian terrorists, to African jihadists are confusing if the public, or worse, U.S. congress, does not have the will or patience to sufficiently research the facts. We want clear good guys and villains; a side is wrong and a side that is right, that we can support- perhaps ship weapons to: Russia to Syria, U.S. to Syrian rebels. But, just who are these “Syrian” rebels?
Nations have experienced this reducing of complex issues to simple and rash solutions, since post-WWII. A current example in the U.S., aside from Iran-Contra, Vietnam, and Iraqi WMD, there are the domestic political parties rushing to judgement: if a party is against illegal immigration, the opposition party claims they are anti-immigration, and anti- Latino. To disagree with Obama risks being labelled a racist. Over-simplifying in the Syrian civil war, by avoiding messy facts, keeps the general public misinformed and vulnerable to politically-motivated generalizations that blur core issues and dangerous misconceptions.
From US congress to Senators, to where the buck stops, President Obama, there is the tendency to generalize how righteous the rebels are, and that rightfully, “Assad must go,” but then to draw the line in the desert sand by picking a side to suggest sending weapons. All very well if each side has a Syrian demographic and consensus of goals that is clear. It isn’t clear who the rebels are, because of the nature of these conflicts. Libya presented a similar dilemma. Foreign Wahhabi Deobandi fighters flocked to Af/Pak in 2002, just as they turned up in Libya, and now in Syria. These foreign Jihadists insert themselves into the mix, with their own agendas. They range from one or two radicalized U.S. citizens, to a much higher percentage of Arabs of Wahhabi Saudi-funded Islamists that arrive there and are now integrated into the rebel forces. Single and multiple fighters join forces from Denmark, France, Uzbekistan, Ireland, Morocco, Algeria, Kosovo, Turkey, Bulgaria, Britain and the several from United States, as well as three from Dagestan and two Australians.
Sarah Khan states the ratios of dead rebel fighters:
“Among the 280 dead fighters in Syria whose cases were examined, the largest single contingent — 60 — came from Libya, and the second-largest group — 47 — came from Tunisia. The third largest group of dead foreign fighters in Syria consisted of 44 Saudis, followed by 32 Jordanians, 27 Egyptians, 20 Lebanese, seven Russians, five Kuwaitis, five Chechens, and three Iraqis.”
These are simply facts; but, important ones. While my article and Sarah’s mention that Salafist Wahhabi terrorists aligned with al Qaeda are joining and threatening to high-jack the Syrian rebel fight for their own agenda, it is also clear that Assad needs to be removed. Further, the Syrian soldiers are criminal in their murder of citizens and innocents. And as I point out in my article, On U.S. approach to Syria: Enemies of your enemies are not necessarily your friends – by Rusty Walker: https://lubpak.com/archives/264349
U.S. Confusion over Syrian rebel forces & Taliban in Afghanistan
These Takfiri Deobandi terrorists, operating as ASWJ-LeJ and Taliban-TTP, Jihadists are fluid and move into Pakistani terrorist organizations. Clerics teach Jihadism to the young, vulnerable, innocent minds-suicide-bombing, in Madrassas. Saudi-funded Wahhabi Clerics are found increasingly more and more American Mosques, and are in the organization: CAIR, and now, fight against Assad in Syria. While they are everywhere, it does not mean we panic and generalize that all Mosques in the US are jihadist, or that the rebel forces in Syria, necessarily are now all Wahhabis, bent on Sharia Law and a return to Islamic Caliphates. But surely prudence would dictate caution be used in assessing rebel demographics before sending in arms.
Reagan made this mistake in his surreptitious maneuvering against the USSR, in 1980s Soviet-Afghanistan war, being prepared to accept the extremist Islamist political and social practices of the Taliban, and its close ties with al Qaeda, out of expediency to fight Cold War communism. In close cooperation between the U.S. and villainous Zia, the CIA and ISI funded by the US and KSA, funneled weapons through the ISI to the Mujahedeen freedom fighters, later history reveals morphed into global terrorist organizations, has been seen as a Frankenstein misjudgment.
Sarah Khan in her article and in mine, are stating facts that have been largely overlooked in the Western Press. I observed on CNN yesterday the confused commentator that did not know how to sort these facts out of Assad and rebels, as we expect to be able to inform the public clearly who is fighting whom and to call one side right and one side wrong. The same confusion on CNN occurred over the Taliban setting up an official office in Qatar. Qatar is a major funder of weapons for Syrian rebel groups. Qatar’s alliances are as duplicitous as are Saudi Arabians, and include Wahhabis. The New York Times said of Qatar’s record of counter-terrorism: the “worst in the region.” And that Qatar’s security service was “hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals”.
So who is attempting to sabotage the Syrian rebel cause? Salafist Wahhabi Deobandi terrorists, no different than those invoved in Shia genocide in Quetta, Gilgit, Pesawar, FATA, KP, Balochistan and other provinces and cities in Pakistan. The faces include groups and disparate individuals like the Woolwich terrorist who beheaded an innocent soldier in England. They are Abu Sakkar a known leader of a group the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade, splinter group of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Al-Farouq Brigades. He insults Alawites and Shias, the very same minority offshoot of Shia Islam to which President Assad belongs. Abu Sakkar has been filmed firing rockets into Shia areas of Lebanon and posing with the bodies of guerrillas from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement killed fighting alongside Syrian government forces. A video shows the Syrian rebel Abu Sakkar, taking a bite from the heart of a dead soldier. “On U.S. approach to Syria: Enemies of your Enemies are Not Necessarily your Friends, by Rusty Walker.” https://lubpak.com/archives/264349
A similar murky misunderstanding from the public in the West exists on anything Pakistan, and certainly Afghanistan. The Taliban setting up “official offices” in Qatar, and “the Taliban claiming victory in Afghanistan” may be dubious, but works as propaganda to the uninformed. An official office for the Taliban is a transparent ploy for legitimacy by a sinister Takfiri Salafist rogue group, that has an inflated opinion of themselves. Worse, the U.S. has fallen for it. In the unstable transfer of U.S. forces to the Afghanistan army, the Afghans are now responsible for their own security. Emerging from these events is the mistaken notion that we now are to have “peace” talks with the Taliban. It is an unnecessary admission of weakness, and confers legitimacy to the Taliban. I understand that the West has had “unofficial” contact with the Taliban in the process of the U.S. pulling out, but now to suggest “official contact,” and “the U.S. recognized this office,” and that “U.S. officials are cautiously optimistic,” if not ludicrous, is giving credit, equity, and authenticity to a brutal enemy. This is all legitimizing the Taliban as potential partners. The notion of “peace talks with Taliban, is reminiscent of British PM Neville Chamberlain meeting with Hitler, and declaring “Peace in Our Time” after coming to “an agreement” to maintain peace…that worked well!)
Their misnomer: “Peace talks,” surrounds these stated Taliban goals:
- Restore relations with the world
- Peaceful solution to the Afghanistan conflict
- End to foreign occupation.
Let me translate:
1. Restore relations with the world? Words matter, the Taliban is regional, and never had world relations status.
2. “Peaceful solution” means the Taliban gets its way; the U.S. leaves, and Taliban expect a bloodless coup. There has never been a stable national identity for Afghanistan or its government; none that truly controlled the vast geography of Afghanistan, sections of which were controlled by war lords, tribes and ethnic groups. Loyalty is more often ethnic -think Pakhtunistan, Pashtuns across the Durand Line- or, loyaties bought and sold. Even if faced with a quick insurgency and victory over poorly trained Afghan troops, even in isolated regions, the Taliban will again claim victory, but never rule all of the warrior Afghans. Taliban will wait, while the Afghan National Army watches and sees who is winning, as the ANA troops seeing a winner will start to defect; and/or, Taliban will simply take over by force if necessary. If General Kayani and the JI Report believes this will redeem Strategic Depth, they are mistaken. Afghan for Aghans will prevail.
3. “End to foreign occupation,“ can be translated as the Taliban and Karzai know the U.S. will not return. Whether being overtaken by the Taliban or engaged in insurgency once again, the U.S. would be hard-pressed to explain to the impatient American public that we need to go back and take care of business in Afghanistan because we failed to do it right the first time.
It is embarrassing to have extricated ourselves from Afghanistan with the denial of the “Quagmire” we were in. The post-9/11 U.S. congress debates protested that this would not be the case. This was different, promised the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, over the voices in the wilderness of us Vietnam-era vets that warned over a decade ago that this would be a repeat of Vietnam, storm in with no plan, lose valuable American soldiers over a vague and changing mission, kill (hundreds of) thousands that were not part of the initial goal (in Vietnam we killed South Vietnamese loyalists/ in Afghanistan, innocents were lost in attempts to dismantle a small, rogue KSA outfit called “al Qaeda.” Afghanistan is the longest war the U.S. ever fought. We pulled out once again prematurely leaving a half-baked U.S. trained “army;” the specter of chaos on the horizon; with no clear victory, just as in Vietnam; as did the Russians in 1980 Afghanistan. I used the term “embarrassment.” This is my term, because the American people have too short a memory to be embarrassed as I am. The U.S. is a great country. I am a patriot, who has served his country. Therefore I must face the truth. These are embarrassments. We cannot learn, therefore, history repeats itself.
Confusion over the Identity of the Rebels in Syria
The Western world, Middle east, South Asia all agree that Assad must go, but, because Salafist terrorists, being opportunists, are joining the fight against Assad, does not make reports of this into “conspiracy theories.” As is usual with the Takfiri jihadists, they take advantage of the fighting for influence in the region, just as nations do: U.S., Iran, Soviet Union, and Jordan. This doesn’t negate the horror and increasing numbers killed by Assad Armies.
A senior Senator for whom I have great respect, an American hero, and past-presidential candidate, Senator McCain, met with “rebels.” There stood Senator McCain, unaware that some with whom he was standing in solidarity with were recognized Wahhabi jihadists. If Senator McCain can make this mistake, then, we all can. We look, but we do not see. Instead we see what we expect: “Syrian rebels;” rather than the unexpected: freedom fighters pushed aside by Wahhabi opportunists. We should not be wary of hearing information that may compromise our belief system. To insist that the rebels in Syria are all clinging to the same honorable agenda and goal, would be a mistake we cannot afford. While we all may want victory for the rebels, it is not a given that they will be moderate Islamic Muslims who want to set up a pluralist, non-tyrannical government protective of the basic liberties and minorities. We need our eyes wide open in this fight. Opportunists are everywhere, and that has nothing to do with “conspiracy” theories, and everything to do with recognizing reality of the make-up of rebel forces.
No one is saying the rebels shouldn’t be supported, but we don’t want to overlook Wahhabi opportunists present there, that need to be extricated. We need to recognize them, expose them, and expel them. If not, we risk extremist Salafist/Wahhabi Deobandis sabotaging the well-meaning indigenous Syrian rebels’ cause.