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    Formal Al-Nusra Front Split With Al-Qaeda to 'Complicate' US Strategy in Syria

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    The formal separation between al-Nusra Front and al-Qaeda may complicate Washington's antiterrorism strategy of arming opposition in Syria, a report has found.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The formal split between al-Qaeda and al-Nusra Front, now known as Jabhat Fatah Al Sham, could present new challenges to the US counterterrorism strategy of arming opposition groups in Syria, according to a Congressional Research Service report publicly released on Tuesday.

    "Increased battlefield integration between the Nusra Front and other Syrian opposition groups could complicate efforts to strike the Nusra Front without impacting other groups with which the United States may prefer to maintain a relationship," CRS analyst Carla Humud wrote.

    In July, al-Nusra Front formally renounced its association with al-Qaeda, declaring itself an independent group — Jabhat Fatah al Sham.

    Al-Nusra Front is largely viewed as the most effective anti-government fighting group inside Syria, and is among the terrorist groups targeted by the United States and its anti-Daesh coalition, as well as by Russia and the Syrian government.

    According to Humud, al-Nusra Front may have calculated its split with al-Qaeda in order to "focus its attacks on the Syrian government."

    The tactic could eventually garner majority support among Syrian opposition groups "particularly if these groups conclude that their primary goal of removing Syrian President [Bashar Assad] is best served through an alliance with the Nusra Front rather than with the United States."

    The commingling of Syrian opposition forces with al-Nusra Front, which has been acknowledged by US officials, "presents a unique challenge to the United States," Humud explained, especially because some of the opposition groups "may receive US support."

    Nusra’s recent split from al-Qaeda and the terrorist group's effective integration with local Syrian forces, could "limit the range of actors" eligible for US military support, Humud warned.

    The United States has been arming Syrian rebels since 2011, first to overthrow Assad covertly, through the Central Intelligence Agency, and beginning in 2014, under a multi-million dollar Pentagon train-and-equip program. The program constitutes the core US policy to address the spread of Daesh and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.

    The Congressional Research Service is a publicly funded research institution that provides nonpartisan information and analysis to US lawmakers.

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    Tags:
    The Syrian war, Congressional Research Service, Al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda, Carla Humud, Syria, United States
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