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US-Backed Moderate Syrian Rebels In North Defect; Obama Strategy Set Back

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ISTANBUL -- It was supposed to be a crucial instrument of the Obama administration's aims in Syria, an ostensibly moderate rebel fighting force that would keep the pressure on the authoritarian regime in Damascus without aiding the ruthless jihadist forces that have captured much of the country. But the soldiers of Harakat Hazzm -- the first Syrian rebel group to receive arms from the CIA -- disbanded this week.

As a result, much of northern Syria is in the hands of the extremists, and the United States is left with no palatable ally in the area in the midst of a regional conflict that continues to spiral out of control.

Hundreds of Harakat Hazzm's soldiers have joined jihadist forces like Jabhat al-Nusra, the al Qaeda offshoot in Syria, and the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, several former fighters told the International Business Times. The so-called moderate rebels complain that they had no alternative to joining al-Nusra and ISIS because the U.S. failed to supply adequate resources.

Harakat Hazzm was the first Syrian rebel faction to receive long-range wire-guided missiles (TOW) from the U.S. as it fought in the northern countryside outside Aleppo. At its height in 2013, the group mustered some 5,000 soldiers, according to a group leader who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons. But the rebels opted to disband after losing hundreds of men in back-to-back battles against al-Nusra last weekend.

The breakup of Harakat Hazzm effectively nullified the two-year-old American campaign to prop up the rebels in the northern part of the country, and it presented a cautionary tale as the U.S. seeks to recruit and support moderate fighters in the southern reaches.


Yep. Can't make chicken salad out of chicken #####.

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