President Barack Obama's announcement of an additional $195 million in humanitarian and food aid to Syrian rebels came a day after Al Qaeda-linked forces led those same rebels in an offensive that landed them control over a strategic military airport.
The aid package is the latest gesture of support from the U.S.—which has sent more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid since the two-year Syrian civil war started—to forces that have become dominated by elements the U.S. has been fighting against since the days following 9/11.
US President Barack Obama speaks during an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, on July 25, 2013. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
The day before Obama announced this latest infusion of aid, Islamist fighters took control of Minnig military airport in northern Syria after months of conflict, according to Reuters.
The command headquarters, the last section still held by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite troops, was overrun by rebels after a suicide bomber drove an armored personnel carrier packed with explosives into the building, Reuters reports.
“The victory again underlines the leading strategic impact being played by militant Islamists, particularly in northern Syria,” military analyst Charles Lister tells McClatchy of Tuesday's airport seizure. “Every major offensive in northern Syria this year has been announced, led, and coordinated by Islamists.”
Syrian fighters of The Beloved of Allah brigade hold their weapons before fighting with government forces on the outskirts of Aleppo. (Credit: AP)
One one side is Assad's regime, on the other are Al Qaeda-led rebels.
But what is the end game?
It's not a problem lost on Michael Kay, a retired British officer, who writes in the Huffington Post:
Sectarian and ideological violence is deepening compounded by very different motives of rebel factions such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the al Qaeda (AQ) affiliated al-Nusra Front. Opposing Assad's government forces is where commonality in values abruptly stops. Al-Nusra's ideology drives Syria towards an Islamic caliphate- far from the Western sovereign based ideals, and even within AQ circles, there is feuding and infighting between the Iraqi branch of AQ and al-Nusra.
AQ remains the nemesis of Western international security so it seems paradoxical to remove a dictator who is actively contributing to the attrition of the West's own enemy. Is a security vacuum in a country the size of Syria really beneficial to Western aspirations in defeating AQ and promoting stability in the region?
You also might be disappointed if your expectations were aligned to a theory that connects any improvement of the dire humanitarian situation in Syria to the removal of Assad. 174,000 violent deaths and 2.8 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Iraq since Saddam's removal from power in 2003 would suggest otherwise.
Calling for the deposition of Assad and his regime may appear like the right course of action to pursue but in doing so, the West may just be walking open-eyed into 'check mate' with AQ and it affiliates.
Meanwhile, Obama openly linked his latest aid package announcement with the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, Islam's holy month of fasting.
“Many of us have had the opportunity to break fast with our Muslim friends and colleagues — a tradition that reminds us to be grateful for our blessings and to show compassion to the less fortunate among us, including millions of Syrians who spent Ramadan displaced from their homes, their families, and their loved ones,” the president said in a statement marking the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which began Wednesday and lasts 24 hours.
Here's a report on the military air base capture from NTD-TV:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(H/T: Gateway Pundit)