Friday, September 19, 2014

Airstrike Uncertainties: Obama's Dangerously Vague New War

    Friday, September 19, 2014   No comments

The City of Rabbits. That is the bucolic alias once attached to the Syrian town of Marea. But it is no longer in use. Now, one of the most important frontlines in the war in northern Syria runs through the town. Some 5,000 rebels have established themselves in the potato fields surrounding Marea in an effort to stop Islamic State jihadists from continuing their advance on Aleppo.

Thus far, they have been successful -- thanks largely to assistance from the US. In Marea, an American-supported rebel command center coordinates the rebels' defense. The entire front is divided into sectors, which are each under the control of a single group. They have names like "Defenders of the Faith," "Islamic Front" and "Nureddin Senki Brigade" and are fairly obscure. Even so, they now have satellite images, ammunition for Kalashnikovs and larger caliber weapons, night-vision devices and provisions. A few anti-tank rockets also arrived a few months ago.

All of the materiel was provided to the fighters by the US. The CIA has established a military operations center in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli which it uses to support Syrian rebels. Those given a green rating by the CIA receive both arms and a salary. Those coded yellow receive help but no weapons. Those marked red receive nothing. Nine groups with a total of around 10,000 fighters are now said to be operating north of Aleppo to stop the march of the Islamic State.

Witnesses who have visited the operations center and who work with the US. have described a curious alliance -- the cast of characters ranges from bearded Islamists to defected army officers. The fighters aren't radical. They aren't exactly secular either. Above all, they aren't corrupt; they are disciplined and capable.

Waiting for Air Strikes

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