‘US cooperating with Al-Qaeda again even after 9/11’

Ahrar al-Sham Islamic fighters © Diaa Al-Din
After the Al-Qaeda 9/11 attack on America the US is cooperating with the terrorist group as it did in Libya, Bosnia, and Kosovo, says former US diplomat Jim Jatras.

A senior figure from a Syrian rebel group Ahrar Al-Sham with links to Al-Qaeda reportedly visited the United States at the end of last year, according to an American news website.

Syrian militant group leader Labib al Nahhas, who calls himself “chief of Foreign Political Relations at Ahrar al-Sham,” allegedly arrived in the US capital for a short visit in December.

RT: What’s your take on the visit to the US by a key Ahrar Al-Sham figure? What do you think about the State department response when they were asked about this? They seemed to be quite evasive, didn’t they?

Jim Jatras: It is clearly tap dancing. And frankly it begs credibility that a fellow like this could come to the US. What – we don’t have visa controls? We don’t pay attention to who is coming into this country from a war zone? And they expect us to believe that officials of the US government were not aware of the visit? Mark Toner said that he [the Ahrar Al-Sham figure] didn’t have any meetings here, meaning the US State Department. I would infer that maybe he had meetings elsewhere with some other agencies.  

RT: Do you have any idea what was behind the visit to the US?

JJ: My sense is that that they were operational meetings. We are hearing more and more noise about this so-called Plan B if the Russian and the Syrian governments do not knuckle under and agree that at the end of the transition Assad will go. We are getting these threats from the Saudis and the Turks, and frankly they are being backed by the Obama administration, that some kind of forceful action will be taken to secure a victory for these terrorist forces if we don’t get our way on what we demand from a supposed transition. And this worries me very much... They will step up their support for these terrorist groups. And I think Ahrar Al-Sham is one of the key components here despite their very close connection with Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra Front and their participation in this massacre at Zarah.  

RT: Why do US officials keep working with this group which has been linked to Al-Qaeda and claim that they are not terrorists? Do you think that the US would be forced to sort of backtrack on their position or will they dig their heels in?

JJ: I think they will dig their heels in. This is not a mystery to anybody in Washington. They know very well that Ahrar Al-Sham and other so-called moderate groups are closely connected to Al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda. And they don’t back away from them because they know without cooperation with Al-Qaeda, which is what it boils down to, they have no policy options in Syria; that they have to accept the fact that Assad is going to stay in power and the terrorists must be defeated. And they cannot accept that.

RT: With more evidence showing there is a link between Ahrar Al-Sham and Al-Qaeda – doesn’t it become more difficult for the US to deny that there is a link? Wouldn’t they have to reevaluate at some point?

JJ: No, I don’t think so at all. They know very well there is a link. And they also know most Americans simply are not paying attention. And here we are – how many years after the 9/11 attack on the US by Al-Qaeda and we are cooperating with Al-Qaeda as we did in Libya, as we did in Bosnia, as we did in Kosovo. They simply do not care because most Americans don’t seem to care.

RT: So, where does this lead the peace talks? Because obviously Russia does care, Assad does care.

JJ: I am not optimistic. I really am not. If the US and the Obama administration had a rational policy, we would be backing up, we would be rethinking our policy and the evidence is all to the contrary. Every once and a while you hear somebody say: “Looks like there is a deal between Washington and Moscow.” But all the evidence to me seems to suggest that they are still taking their marching orders from Riyadh, from Ankara and the Gulf States. And they are still bent on by hook or by crook securing a victory for the terrorists.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.