At least that’s what CNN was told by the Taliban in Pakistan. They have already sent 120 fighters to Syria for the rebels on request from al-Qaeda, and another 150 are on their way:
Taliban fighters from Pakistan say they have united with al Qaeda forces in Syria to fight the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The commander of the Pakistan Taliban, Abdul Rashid Abbasi, has told CNN that the first batch of fighters has arrived in Syria and established a command and control center to launch operational activities alongside Syrian rebel fighters. Abbasi, a close associate of Pakistan Taliban head Hakeemullah Mehsud, told CNN that 120 fighters are already in Syria.
The Taliban commander went on to say that another batch of fighters made up of 150 men will arrive in Syria this week.
“We shall be sending more volunteers, but cannot give exact numbers at this moment, but we will provide whatever support is needed by our Syrian brothers,” Abbasi told CNN.
Great! The rebellion that the US wants to support not only has al-Qaeda affiliates running the show, it also has incentivized the Taliban to expand outside the Af-Pak theater for the first time. This is the same group that we’re trying to woo into peace talks before we bug out of Afghanistan entirely, in part to convince them to give up their partnership with AQ. That seems to be going …. about as well as expected.
Speaking of AQ, Syria isn’t the only theater where they need help. Their most successful franchise, the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), had their second-in-command die from an American drone strike, although it’s unclear exactly when that happened. By the way, he’s also a Gitmo alumnus:
The Yemen-based branch of al-Qaida announced Wednesday that the group’s No. 2 figure, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, has died in a U.S. drone strike.
The announcement, posted on militant websites, gave no date for the death of Saudi-born Saeed al-Shihri.
Yemeni security officials, however, said al-Shihri died of serious injuries sustained when a drone strike targeted him in November last year.
Al-Shihri had survived an earlier drone attack, in September 2012, the officials added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.
Wednesday’s announcement came in a video purporting to show the group’s chief theologian, Ibrahim Al-Robaish, in which he eulogized al-Shihri.
In the video, al-Robaish said al-Shihri was hit by the drone while speaking on his mobile telephone in the province of Saadah, north of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.
AQAP lost its top leader, American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, in a September 2011 drone strike that remains controversial today. One would think that AQAP would have figured out the whole mobile-phone-as-targeting-device concept by now, but communications options in that area would be limited.
Will the alliance between al-Qaeda and the Taliban force the US to reconsider its policy in Syria? Afghanistan? In general? Clearly, the relationship is growing stronger — and the Taliban feel as though they can spare these fighters from their own efforts to overthrow the Hamid Karzai government. Neither of those are healthy developments for the US in the long war on terrorism, and that should have policymakers putting a screeching halt to arms shipments to Syrian rebels. Unfortunately, it probably won’t.