The enemy in Syria that may not even exist

A rebel fighter on the streets of Aleppo in April
A rebel fighter on the streets of Aleppo in April

The fog of war has been a recurrent theme through time. Even in these early days of the war against Isis, the fog appears to be descending fast with no clear strategy in view and a moving gallery of enemies.

Barack Obama admits that his administration underestimated the threat posed by Isis and overestimated the capabilities of the Iraqi military.

Real confusion began when the campaign moved to Syria. Instead of just attacking Isis, the US also bombed Jabhat al-Nusra, affiliated to al-Qaeda but which had fought against Isis and was loosely allied with the “moderate” rebels whom the West is sponsoring.

Just before the attack, there was a slew of media reports in the US about a group called Khorasan, linked to al-Nusra, and accounts of how it was more dangerous and extreme than Isis which, we had been told, was more dangerous and extreme even than al-Qaeda. Not just that, but there was an imminent plot by Khorasan’s master bomb-makers to bring down airliners.

Some of us who have spent a bit of time with the rebels inside Syria were caught on the hop; we had not even heard of Khorasan. But could it be that was because it does not exist? Andrew McCarthy, a former US federal terrorism prosecutor was blunt in the National Review magazine:

You haven’t heard of the Khorasan group because there isn’t one. It is a name the administration came up with calculating that Khorasan had sufficient connection to jihadist lore [so] that no one would call the President on it.

Rear-Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, wanted to counter those who quibbled about the imminence of an attack. “ I don’t know that we can pin that down to a day or month or week or six months.. I don’t think we need to throw up a dossier here to prove that these are bad dudes.”

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