‘American military ops against Al-Nusra incongruous as US assists jihadists’

A view shows what is believed to be one of the roads that people would have to use to access one of the safe exit points opened for people wishing to leave rebel-held areas, in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr, Syria October 20, 2016. © Abdalrhman Ismail
The US State Department blaming Russia for the situation in Syria makes no sense, as they have their own trainers on the ground working with jihadist Salafi groups which include Al-Nusra fighters, former Pentagon official Michael Maloof told RT.

State Department spokesperson John Kirby said the US army is not focused on fighting the terrorist group Al-Nusra in Syria, as its primary target is ISIS.

RT: The US acknowledges that Al-Nusra is a terrorist group, and yet does not consider defeating it a priority. What do you make of this?

Michael Maloof: It is not surprising, simply because we’re providing arms to them indirectly through their sponsors, namely Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The problem is that we have troops on the ground who are helping to train elements such as Al-Nusra and other jihadi Salafist groups. It is not just me saying that. This actually was said by a unit commander of Al-Nusra – his name is Abu Abdul 'Aziz. He basically admitted that US arms are coming into Syria, they are coming indirectly, it is not being sent directly from the US. But US forces are training and assisting some of those forces namely Al-Nusra. So it would be incongruous for the US to be bombing Al-Nusra, when we have our own trainers on the ground working with many of these fighters.

RT: Russia's envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, speaking on Thursday, accused several members of the UN Security Council of reluctance to tackle Al-Nusra. Is Russia looking increasingly isolated, in its campaign to defeat the terrorist group?

MM: In terms of Nusra probably, because you also have arms flows coming in from Turkey to Nusra. Turkey feels that the Kurds are a greater threat than Nusra or even ISIS for that matter. And that is a problem. That’ll set up a potential conflict. But when you have trainers from the West who are assisting a lot of these jihadist Salafi groups, which include Nusra fighters, it makes it very difficult to bomb them at that point… The fact that the State Department today blames Russia for this problem just makes no sense at all.

RT: Explaining the failure to tackle Al-Nusra, State Department spokesperson John Kirby accused Russia of failing to meet its obligations on information sharing. Does that allegation make sense to you?

MM: No it doesn’t. I know for a fact the Russians were asking the US for the identification of groups that they could avoid hitting. The US never turned over that list or their locations. You can argue that well if they did, they probably would have been bombed. Well, that still is contrary to the agreement that was reached between Secretary of State [John] Kerry and Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov. The US never fulfilled its own obligation under that agreement, and as a consequence everything fell apart. And for that matter along the Castello Highway there, even though there was a ceasefire, Jihadists were advancing and shooting at the Syrian army and they had to turn around and fire back.

Irony of ironies

It’s ironic that the US has been at war against terrorists since 2001 using it as a pretext to invade and bomb a number of the countries, and now the Obama administration admits US forces are not fighting against Al-Qaeda in Syria, said Brian Becker from the anti-war 'Answer' coalition.

RT: Throughout its military operations in Syria, the US has listed Al-Nusra as one of the region's main terror groups and promised to take action. Now, America seems to be backtracking on that promise, to priorities Al-Qaeda and ISIS. What do you make of that?

Brian Becker: There is an amazing admission by Admiral John Kirby, spokesperson for the State Department that the US has reneged on the agreement with Russia to fight against Daesh/ISIL/ISIS and Al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaeda, whatever it wants to change its name to. Here we have this tremendous irony of ironies that the US has been at war against terrorists since 2001. It’s devoted the prime parts of its foreign policy to just that, used it as the pretext for invading Afghanistan, for carrying out the invasion and occupation of Iraq, also for supporting Saudi Arabia in Yemen, even though the Saudis are the financiers and supporters of ISIS. The US is launching the war along with the Iraqi government in Mosul. But in Syria the US government, the Obama administration now admits that they won’t fight and are not fighting against Al-Qaeda, which means they are helping Al-Qaeda; and that means that their main priority is not fighting ISIS, their main priority is, as it always has been, the destruction of the secular independent nationalist government of Bashar Assad – that is the real deal.

RT: Is there anything in the timing of this shift in priorities?

BB: Yes, what has been announced, and Kirby made it quite clear, is that the tentative agreement by the US government, by the Obama administration, under the advice of John Kerry, the Secretary of State, to go ahead with a ceasefire plan, seven days ceasefire, cessation of hostilities, hoping to lead to a political resolution, and then possibly a government of national unity - that position, that ceasefire was opposed openly by the Pentagon. This is not like a news flash – they said it openly. Ash Carter said, the Secretary of Defense. And then they carried out the airstrikes that killed more than 80 Syrian Arab Army’s [soldiers] immediately after the ceasefire was announced, thus sabotaging the agreement. So what we see is that the Pentagon did not want the ceasefire; they sabotage the ceasefire, and now they are openly, boldly, proudly proclaiming: “We won’t fight Al-Qaeda even though the US government identifies Al-Qaeda as the main terrorist entity in the world along with the ISIS.”

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