While all eyes are on the Islamic State’s activities in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Israel and other countries in the Middle East and beyond, an even bigger danger is threatening the world but has remained largely unnoticed say the Institute of War (ISW) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
According to the think tanks new report, the West has been ‘dangerously underestimating’ what al-Qaeda is doing in Syria. Both think tanks believe al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra is an even more dangerous group than the Islamic State (Daesh).
According to Business Insider, the report says Jabhat al-Nusra poses ‘one of the most significant long-term threats’ of any jihadist group.
Furthermore, it says that Jabhat al-Nusra has established a huge network of partnerships with Syrian opposition groups that have sworn allegiance to the organization. “It’s defeat and destruction must be one of the highest priorities of any strategy to defend the United States and Europe from al-Qaeda attacks,” the report warned.
“Jabhat al-Nusra has weakened the moderate opposition and penetrated other Sunni opposition groups in Syria so thoroughly that it is poised to benefit the most from the destruction of ISIS and the fall of the Assad regime,” the IWS and AEI reported.
The think tanks wrote that the most likely outcome of the current strategy in Syria will be the establishment of an Al-Qaeda emirate because Jabhat al-Nusra has the backing of many other militias and significant parts of the Syrian population.
At the end of 2015, VICE News released a revealing video report on Jabhat al-Nusra’s strategy in Syria that showed the group is much more than simply a militia fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The group provides, for example, education to children who are trained to become Jihadi’s and are brainwashed into believing that killing Jews is the holy duty of every Muslim.
You can watch the documentary here:
ISW and AEI predict that after achieving its goals in Syria Jabhat al-Nusra will join al-Qaeda in a new offensive against the West. Kimberly Kagan, the president of ISW told Business Insider that the United States is too focused on ISIS and is ignoring the threat Jabhat al-Nusra is posing.
The group is working according to a long-term strategy, Kagan said.
“ISIS is overt about its presence and al-Nusra is covert about its activities in Syria,” the ISW director said.
This is one of the reasons the U.S. is not sufficiently focused on the activities of the Syrian al-Qaeda branch, according to Kagan. Al-Nusra wants to be underestimated because it serves it’s long term goals. A defeat of the Islamic State in Syria will “likely increase the capability and strength of Jabhat al-Nusra,” Kagan added.
With or without an ISIS defeat, Jabhat al-Nusra is on the march in Syria.
Yesterday the group staged a massive show of force in Aleppo, the second city in Syria. The al-Qaeda branch drove a huge convoy of 200 vehicles with heavily armed fighters through the streets of the city ahead of a re-deployment in the area.
The El-Dorar news site reported that al-Nusra was reinforcing its troops north of Aleppo in anticipation of a new offensive by the Russian-Iranian-led pro-Assad coalition. The reinforcements arrived from Idlib province in northwest Syria near the Turkish border where al-Nusra is controlling large swaths of territory.
Syrian and Lebanese sources reported that the pro-Assad coalition aims to lift al-Nusra’s siege on two Shiite villages north of Aleppo. The villages have been surrounded by the al-Qaeda branch since the summer of 2012. Jabhat al-Nusra fighters have also taken control over neighborhoods in eastern Aleppo. Residents of the city fear that al-Nusra’s ultimate goal is to gain control over all of Aleppo and to impose Sharia law on the city.
The Free Syrian Army in Aleppo expects that a battle for control of Aleppo will start soon after a large number of masked Nusra fighters deployed in the city and began setting up checkpoints in residential areas. A commander of Jabhat al-Nusra denied that the group will start an offensive in residential areas and said that the checkpoints were erected for security reasons only.
If you want to get a better idea about Al-Nusra’s fighting capabilities, this video gives more information about the assault on the Syrian village of Banes in South Aleppo on December 8 2015.