Did Obama’s Beloved “Moderate” FSA Fighters Flee Aleppo?

The Obama Administration continues to hold onto the fantasy that training and equipping a group of “moderate” rebels in Syria will allow threading the gap between the Bashar al-Assad regime that continues to relentlessly attack its own citizens and the ISIS fighters who behead many of the folks in their path. After all, Obama and his minions seem to want us to to think, the “moderates” only occasionally eat a victim’s heart or behead people after posing for photos with John McCain.

The press in Turkey is reporting that Obama’s centerpiece of the “moderate” rebel movement, the Free Syrian Army, has fled the strategic city of Aleppo where battles have taken place since early in the Syrian civil war. The reports say that within the past two weeks, the new leader of the FSA, Jamal Marouf (previous FSA leader Salem Idris was among those in the famous photo with McCain) fled to Turkey where he is being protected. Iranian news is repeating these reports, with stories in both Fars News and PressTV. Both Iranian stories cite this report from Turkey:

The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the recognized armed opposition group against the Bashar al-Assad in Syria, has ceased its resistance in Aleppo, Syria’s second biggest city, withdrawing its 14,000 militia from the city, a ranking Turkish security source told the Hürriyet Daily News on Nov. 17.

“Its leader Jamal Marouf has fled to Turkey,” confirmed the source, who asked not to be named. “He is currently being hosted and protected by the Turkish state.”

The source did not give an exact date of the escape but said it was within the last two weeks, that is, the first half of November. The source declined to give Marouf’s whereabouts in Turkey.

Wow, so not only did the leader apparently leave, but 14,000 fighters abandoned Aleppo, too? That’s huge. The only Western news story I see so far on this is an AFP story carried by Yahoo News in the UK. The story opens by describing how desperate the refugee problem will be in Turkey if Aleppo has indeed fallen:

Turkey fears another two to three million Syrian refugees could cross its borders if the region of Syria’s second city of Aleppo is overrun either by Islamist extremists or regime forces, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday.

Turkey is already hosting at least 1.5 million refugees displaced by the Syrian conflict and has repeatedly warned that its capacities are being strained by the numbers.

It takes another sixteen paragraphs or so before getting to the news about Marouf:

Meanwhile the Turkish online newspaper Radikal reported that the chief of the moderate anti-Assad group the Syrian Revolutionary Front, Jamal Maarouf, had fled to Turkey two weeks ago.

There was no confirmation of the report and no further details were immediately available.

But never fear! The article gives us this rosy news as a conclusion:

Media reports said at the weekend that Turkey and the United States have agreed a plan under which some 2,000 FSA fighters would be trained on Turkish soil.

Let’s see, 14,000 troops fled, and now we’re going to train a whopping 2000 to take their place.

Winning!

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

9 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:

    So the “leader” is now hosted by Turkey, and his numerous followers are … now with ISIS? And were they forced out of Aleppo by the Syrian Arab Army or by another force? Or does it matter.
    .
    Anyhow, whether the US military or Turkey trains the new force I’m sure it will be as successful as the trainers and have been.

  2. Don Bacon says:

    from FP:
    Just last week, the Pentagon asked Congress for another $5 billion to fight the Islamic State. Included in the $5 billion request for fighting the Islamic State is $1.6 billion for a new train-and-equip program for 12 brigades of Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga. On Nov. 7, the Pentagon said it is sending another 1,500 troops to Iraq. Of them, 870 will be assigned to the training mission at sites in northern, western, and southern Iraq.
    .
    Although the Pentagon has deployment authority, once in Iraq, the troops cannot conduct the training mission without specific approval from Congress. That’s because the training of foreign militaries — or in the case of Syria, foreign rebel groups — requires Congress to sign off on the plans and the funding.
    .
    Now the issue is all wrapped up in the messy end-of-year budget battle playing out on Capitol Hill with a lame-duck Congress.

  3. Don Bacon says:

    Nov 19
    ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says no final decisions have been reached for Turkey to start training rebels fighting the Islamic State and Syrian government forces. Erdogan said the coalition still has not taken steps toward a comprehensive strategy in Syria, which he insists must be focused on the removal of President Bashar Assad.

  4. b says:

    I have followed that story.

    Marouf never had many fighters in Aleppo. Hisbase and operations were in Idleb. Sure, some 1000 FSA have pulled out of Aleppo but were replaced with Nusra fighters. But those were not Marouf guys and the reason is rather the threat of being totally cut off by the Syrian army.

    The number of 15,000 is highly exaggerated as is the number of possible new refugees from Aleppo. The rebels hold only a part of the city and there are less than 10% of the original inhabitants of that part still living in the area. If the Syrian army captures the area the fighters will flee or give up and the civilians will likely stay.

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