The True Story of al-Qaeda’s Demise and Resurgence in Syria

In this piece about the jihadi splits in Syria you get an idea why neither Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS) nor Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) should be considered as Al-Qaeda groups. In short:

The authors point to the former al-Nusra-Front leader's decision to cut his organization’s ties to Al-Qaeda in order to not attract the US’s attention too much and to unite the jihadi factions operating in Syria’s northwest. Nusra was then known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS) and evolved into the bigger formation Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)

HTS’s split from Al-Qaeda is shown by the work relations the group has with Turkey, for example. However, as Julani’s efforts failed, his organization HTS remains isolated to some extent.

Ahrar al-Sham and Nour al-Deen al-Zinki have merged into the new formation Jabhat Tahrir Suriya (JTS) while Al-Qaeda loyalists have formed a group called Tandhim Hurras al-Deen in February 2018.

Tandhim Hurras al-Deen has not been officially recognized by al-Qaeda central, but that is only a matter of time, the authors assume. What is important: Media headlines claiming hat Al-Qaeda has way more than 10.000 fighters in Syria are inaccurate. The authors estimate a number between 2-3k fighters.

What is also important is the general perspective on the intentions of Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Syria: The authors believe that the group will adopt a local focus instead of trying to conduct attacks abroad.


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