Editor’s Note – Mary Claire Kendall is a Washington-based writer. She has done commentary on the Middle East since 2007.
Free Syrian Army Routing Al Qaeda: What’s Washington Waiting For?
By Mary Claire Kendall
Major General Paul E. Vallely (USA-Ret.), former deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army in the Pacific and West Point grad, is the go-to guy for the Tea Party.
“We worship the ground he walks on,” said Captain Larry Bailey, USN (SEAL) (Ret), of Special Operations Speaks (SOS).
Little wonder. Vallely of “Stand Up America” is a stand-up guy—not only domestically but abroad. He’s got the kind of gravitas and vision rarely seen on the national stage.
“America is at a crossroads and it’s up to us to take the right road and get this country back again,” he told a recent Tea Party gathering in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Syrian Opposition Liaison Group Helps Rescue Swedish Journalists
Internationally, his “Syrian Opposition Liaison Group” (SOLG) is engaged in a high-stakes chess game guided by a clear strategic understanding of how to defeat Islamic extremists in the Middle East.
Just recently, SOLG played a direct role in the release of two Swedish journalists—Niclas Hammarstrom and Magnus Falkehed—abducted in late November by a group of bandits in the Qalamoun Mountains and held for six weeks in the small town of Arsal al Ward not far from Aleppo where the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has routed Al Qaeda.
General Vallely visited the area and met with FSA commanders last August—the only senior American to do so. It was all part of a humanitarian, political and security fact finding mission, giving him unique knowledge of Syria’s complex dynamics. He was protected by a contingent of 400 FSA soldiers on this, his fourth visit to the Middle East in 18 months.
The goal of the bandit kidnappers, as always, was to “discredit and decimate” the FSA, said Col. Nagi N. Najjar, special adviser to General Vallely and manager of SOLG, as well as to make money.
SOLG came to the rescue, leading the negotiations secretly between the Swedish authorities, the Swedish Police, and the FSA command on the ground, ultimately helping secure the Swedes’ release in early January. It was done without recompense as a gesture of goodwill and gratitude for all the Swedish government has done to find refuge for displaced Syrians.
Coming Arab Summer
Of course, this is but one episode in the ongoing bloody Civil War in Syria where the stakes could not be higher. It’s a proxy war writ large.
For instance, Saudi Arabia and Qatar sponsor terrorism camps throughout Syria, where new recruits are trained—Yossef Bodansky’s claims to the contrary. Bodansky, former Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the U.S. House of Representatives (1988 to 2004), claims the Syrian National Congress and FSA are supporting Islamic extremist camps. Not true, says Col. Najjar. “The mere existence of the Idlib camp should serve as a reminder of the true irrelevance and impotence of the West’s allies.” They simply don’t have the resources to clean out every enemy training camp, even in areas under FSA control.
Why won’t the U.S. get with the program?
As General Vallely said in South Carolina, Col. Najjar told him in the wake of 9/11, America should not put bases in the countries where Islamic extremists live and plot.
Fast forward some 12 years and it’s high time to heed his wisdom. As Col. Najjar said, “Al Qaeda (AQ) could be terminated… and the FSA is very good at doing it; they should be given the chance and opportunity.”
Yet, the Administration dithers as they weigh whether or not to resume non-lethal aid to the FSA, while “letting Assad continue the civilian massacres, dropping tons of bombs and explosives on civilian cities,” said Col. Najjar, “and letting the AQ extremists fill the vacuum.”
If Iran had attended the recent Syrian peace conference in Montreaux, outside Geneva, said Col. Najjar (a near reality until the U.N. rescinded the invite), it would only have strengthened the Al Qaeda network, while further weakening the FSA. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda Chief Zawahiri, on January 26, has called for a “hot summer”.
In his video release, Col. Najjar said, he “declares war on America this summer and calls for the Islamic Ummah to resist the Crusade and its regional lackeys from the West, forcing the Islamic world to bow.”
It’s a “regional Jihad project in the path of Allah and Palestine against the American ‘secular reforms,’” he is calling for, said Col. Najjar, and against “all secular regional regimes—from Algeria, Tunis, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Philippines, Pakistan and Arabia.” Furthermore, “he is calling for Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan to be the model of defeat for the West, and calling for the overthrow of the King of Saudi Arabia declaring him a lackey of the West.”
Third Option: What Is Washington Waiting For?
“Why ignore this third option,” which the FSA offers for stabilizing Syria, asks Col. Najjar? Doing so is “a dangerous combo that could ignite and inflame the entire region, with a domino effect in Lebanon and Jordan.”
Just now, in the wake of FSA’s successes in Aleppo, Al Qaeda is on the march, regrouping in other places and provinces, intent on revenge.
“Support and guidance is needed from the Pentagon for these guys fighting under fire against Al Qaeda,” said Col. Najjar. Otherwise, the extremists will prevail. “Something needs to be done… and urgently,” he said. “This fight is no joke down there, 700 dead in one week… and AQ is promising a bloody retaliation.”
If ever there was a time to come to the aid of our friends in Syria, it’s now. And, the irony is, they can defeat Al Qaeda once and for all—something we’ve been trying to do with varying degrees of success since 2001.
Meanwhile, as Washington hesitates, Gen. Vallely continues to lead. And, at great risk.
On January 21, Supreme Kalamullah Abu Abdullah (HA), the Emir of the Mujahireen of the Islamic State of Iraq and Shaam, posted a video in which he says, “The American General (Gen. Paul E. Vallely), may Allah enable us to kidnap him and cut his head off, has gathered with the Free Army and they have made battle plans to attack the Islamic State.”
General Vallely understands Al Qaeda is not ‘Junior Varsity,’ as President Barack Obama falsely claimed in a recent New Yorker interview, but intent on destroying America. He and his team will keep sounding the alarm bells until America wakes up and smells the tea—hopefully before it’s too late.
Mary Claire Kendall has done commentary on the Middle East since 2007, most recently for the Washington Times in “Justice for the Benghazi victims” (January 10, 2014). She’s also written for The Weekly Standard, Forbes, Washington Examiner, San Francisco Examiner, New York Post, NY Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, National Catholic Register, The Wanderer, Human Events Online, National Review Online and Pajamas Media, among other venues, and is currently writing a book about legends of Hollywood, due for publication in 2015. In 2008 she did commentary on Iran’s Press TV, presenting America’s strategic vision for achieving a stable and peaceful Middle East that emphasizes the dignity of the individual.