As officially reported by the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), on October 22, following an American drone strike in northwestern Syria 14 militants were killed, including 6 field commanders with the terrorist Islamist alliance Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS is an organization banned in Russia), a group in which a leading role is played by the terrorist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra (both groups are banned in Russia). One of those killed, Hamud al-Sahara, was a co-founder of Jabhat al-Nusra in Aleppo. The strike was carried out in the village of Jakara, near the city of Salqin in Idlib province, where top leaders from terrorist groups were holding a meeting.
Any actions to suppress the activities of terrorists, and to destroy them, definitely should be assessed in a positive light. However, this CENTCOM operation in Syria involuntarily forces people to think about the true reasons and objectives for these actions on the part of the United States, and right at the very moment when Kashyap Patel, the official chiefly responsible for combating terrorism with the US National Security Council, arrived in the country, as he made this visit with President Donald Trump’s support, and with the US State Department coordinating it. According to the Wall Street Journal, Patel was accompanied by Robert O’Brien, another national security adviser to the president and former chief hostage negotiator at the US State Department.
British media outlets have already noted that nowadays Assad occupies a very advantageous position, because certain people of immediate interest to President Donald Trump are literally in his hands. This means the American citizens that are being held by Damascus, and securing their release could score him more points in the electoral race, which is getting fiercer with every passing day.
It is worth reiterating that, in addition to the two American citizens held by Damascus, on October 14, in the cities of Sabha and Madan in the southern part of Raqqa, Syrian intelligence officers detained nine militants that had collaborated with the US-led international coalition. In July, Syrian armed forces captured two more militants in the southern part of Homs who were associated with American intelligence, and earlier, in Palmyra, another militant associated with the British intelligence services was arrested by Syrian counterintelligence. That is why Robert O’Brien was included in the makeup of the American negotiating team that arrived in Damascus.
As far as Kashyap Patel is concerned, it was he who clearly had to demonstrate Washington’s readiness to Damascus that it would not shy away from fighting terrorist groups in Syria, and this explains why the dates coincide for the American delegation’s arrival in Syria and the American UAV attack on the latest congregation of Syrian militant group leaders.
This meeting took place against the backdrop of a scandal about US and British special forces working together with terrorist groups in Syria, something which has been going on for several months and which that The Syria Times, an English-language newspaper that is published in Damascus, specifically reported upon in September for its readers. According to local sources for the publication, a group of officers from the US armed forces recently entered a prison located in the Al-Malikiyah area of the Al-Hasakah Governorate, in northeastern Syria, and “eliminated five leaders from the terrorist group DAESH (banned in Russia)”. At the same time, it became known that the officers from US Armed Forces transported three other leaders from the terrorist group DAESH by helicopter from Al-Sinaa Prison – in the Gwairan district in the Al-Hasakah Governorate – to American bases in eastern Syria.
The reasons why activity has sharply picked up on the part of US special forces to destroy groups of terrorist activists in Syria, or to extract them from Syrian prisons, became evident after the arrangements came to light this year by which the US military, to justify its presence in the Arab republic, cooperates with terrorists.
In particular, a former member of the so-called Syrian armed opposition, and now one of the main witnesses on the side of Damascus, former field commander Hannam Samir (aka Abu Hamzi) – who fled from Al-Tanf in May and went over to the side of the Syrian army – said that in eastern Syria US and British special forces have set up a conveyor belt for recruiting militants, and these are conditionally divided into two groups, the “good” and “bad”, and after that those categorized as the former are sent off to fight against the latter. He passed down that path himself. He joined a group in eastern Sweida, then went to train in Jordan, and from there he went to the southeastern part of Syria, where the American Al-Tanf military base and the Rukban refugee camp are both located. Militants from the Jaysh Maghavir al-Thawra group, created and trained by the US military, continue to operate here (the Army of Revolutionary Commandos is a terrorist group banned in Russia); some of its members have surrendered to the Syrian authorities. US Army instructors teach them how to handle weapons and engage in sabotage versus the militants. Then some of them are sent to join groups of radical Islamists, while others are transferred to units of the “moderate opposition” – and they are generously paid for their cooperation. There is a gun-toting hostility that exists between these forces, but this confrontation is just for show, since its main purpose is to create a pretext and justify the presence of the US Army in oil-bearing regions around Syria.
In July, another militant who surrendered to the Syrian army, Hassan Abdul Atra, confirmed that the Jaysh Maghavir al-Thawra group, whose camp is located on the premises of the zone controlled by Al-Tanf, participated in a job given by American special forces to initiate provocations against Damascus to help justify the American strikes against Syrian government troop units.
Another former militant, Abdurahman Jisr, who came to the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria in the Syrian city of Daraa in September to gain legal status, spoke about how he and his accomplices were financed by the United States and urged to fight against the authorities.
Another former militant, Mohammad Hussein Saud, also spoke about the cooperation between British special forces and the terrorist group DAESH in June. He admitted that he met with British special forces officers in the zone controlled by Al-Tanf on the border with Jordan, where the US military base is located.
And many of these public confessions have already racked up.
All these facts, and public statements by former Syrian militants, are undoubtedly evidence that close cooperation exists between American and British special forces and terrorist groups in Syria; Washington clearly wishes to avoid public disclosure of this. Especially in the run-up to the presidential election campaign. This explains the urgent desire on the part of US Armed Forces to destroy active field commanders that are now objectionable to Washington, and could become the latest witnesses of improper US behavior in Syria, by carrying out airstrikes.
At the same time, the fact that the CENTCOM drone strike on October 22 was executed specifically on the HTS terrorists’ base draws attention to itself; Washington has also begun to fear them due to the possibility that the group’s activists might disclose the details of their cooperation with Washington. Even though it is true that this cooperation has not been a secret for anyone, and for a long time now. Indeed, even back in March, James Jeffrey, United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement, gave a frank interview to CBS in which he explained the reasons why US Armed Forces do not strike terrorists in Idlib. According to Jeffrey, Washington refrains from striking HTS groups because they “are at war with government forces, and are not involved in international terrorist activities”.
In this regard, it is noteworthy that, as Western and Arab media wrote in February, the US military transported away Al-Juliani, the head of the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group, when he was seriously injured. Al-Juliani was first taken to a Turkish field hospital located in Syria, and then this terrorist leader was taken to one Warsaw suburb on American military helicopters, accompanied by mercenaries from the Polish PMC European Security Academy, where he was treated at a hospital in Poland on a US military base.
As former Turkish general Naim Baburoglu told the Turkish edition of Cumhuriyet in March, Americans can cross off the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham group from their list of terrorist organizations, and then even try to get it removed from the UN list, and after that Washington can start providing assistance to extremists in Idlib, as it is currently assisting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or the Democratic Union (PYD).
However, how can Washington’s policy of violently destroying people that it does not need, or activists that it finds objectionable, surprise anyone at all nowadays, if even Donald Trump himself recently publicly admitted that he wanted to destroy Syrian leader Assad.
Vladimir Platov, an expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.