National Security Brief: Syrian Rebels Strive For Moderation

A top Syrian rebel commander said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he is spearheading an effort to lure moderate forces away from extremist groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s military.

Gen. Mithkal Albtaish, a leader of the Free Syrian Army, said he recently persuaded dozens of fighters from the al-Qaeda in Iraq-linked Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra to join his ranks.

“The situation between al Nusra and us is difficult,” Albtaish said, adding that his forces in Aleppo “stopped cooperation” with al Nusra after it aligned with al Qaeda this year.

The Journal notes that “the recruitment drive highlights a crucial part of the Syrian opposition’s strategy: Leveraging fresh support from the administration of President Barack Obama and other nations to drain local backing from extremist groups that currently dominate the front lines in the fight against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”


Meanwhile, the AFP reports that “Jordanians are suspicious about U.S. weapons and troops being deployed to the kingdom, even if Washington seeks to help its ally protect itself from a possible spillover of Syrian violence.”

In other news:

  • The Guardian reports: The Obama administration for more than two years permitted the National Security Agency to continue collecting vast amounts of records detailing the email and internet usage of Americans, according to secret documents obtained by the Guardian. The documents indicate that under the program, launched in 2001, a federal judge sitting on the secret surveillance panel called the Fisa court would approve a bulk collection order for internet metadata “every 90 days”. A senior administration official confirmed the program, stating that it ended in 2011.
  • NBC News reports: Legal sources tell NBC News that the former second ranking officer in the U.S. military is now the target of a Justice Department investigation into a politically sensitive leak of classified information about a covert U.S. cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear program.
  • USA Today reports: The Defense Department wants to continue working with contractors to pump propaganda into Afghanistan despite a recent Government Accountability Office report that shows the programs are inadequately tracked, their impact is unclear, and the military doesn’t know if it is targeting the right foreign audiences.