The U.S intelligence community has come up with new estimates on the disparate militant groups in Syrian crisis that suggest peace is out of reach in the foreseeable future.
The numbers: Up to 110,000 anti-government fighters are split between 1,600 groups that include 7,000 foreigners from around 50 countries in the Muslim world, Europe, the United States and Canada.
At a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, America’s spy chief, “James Clapper”, added that “those fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad included 26,000 extremists in organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Nusra Front, both affiliates of Al-Qaeda”. Clapper described Syria as a “huge magnet for extremists” and likened the country to Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas (FATA), which became a haven for Al-Qaeda’s leaders after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
According to Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the intelligence committee, the threat from Syria has grown so much over the past year that there was now “a real prospect” the conflict-torn country could turn into a launching pad for attacks on the United States and other countries. The reason according to Feinstein “large swathes of Syria are beyond the regime’s control or that of the moderate opposition”.
The dire warnings from Washington coincided with peace talks in Geneva that brought together representatives of the Syrian government and the Western-backed opposition coalition, whose leaders have limited influence on military groups considered moderate and absolutely no influence on ISIL, al-Nusra Front or the foreign jihadists who have been flocking to Syria in increasing numbers as the conflict ground on.