The Proxy Fight Against ISIS is Collapsing

Arming groups to fight against ISIS can easily backfire.

The Daily Beast reported yesterday, “Exclusive: Key Rebels Ready to Quit U.S. Fight Vs. ISIS.”

A centerpiece of the U.S. war plan against ISIS is in danger of collapsing. A key rebel commander and his men are ready to pull out in frustration of the U.S. program to train a rebel army to beat back the terror group in Syria, The Daily Beast has learned.

The news comes as ISIS is marching on the suburbs of Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city. Rebels currently fighting the jihadists there told The Daily Beast that the U.S.-led coalition isn’t even bothering to respond to their calls for airstrikes to stop the jihadist army.

Mustapha Sejari, one of the rebels already approved for the U.S. training program, told The Daily Beast that he and his 1,000 men are on the verge of withdrawing from the program. The issue: the American government’s demand that the rebels can’t use any of their newfound battlefield prowess or U.S.-provided weaponry against the army of Bashar al-Assad or any of its manifold proxies and allies, which include Iranian-built militias such as Lebanese Hezbollah. They must only fight ISIS, Washington insists.

[See also, “So-Called Moderate Syrian Rebels Cooperate with ISIS.”]

I approve of not fighting a proxy war to oust Bashar al-Assad. But surely it seems ridiculous to act like we can draft a thousand men to fight our battles and not bother to fight the enemies they consider a greater threat. So what happens if these thousand men actually make an alliance with ISIS to attack Assad’s armies?

Sejari’s possible departure wouldn’t just mean the loss of a few fighters for the anti-ISIS army the U.S. is trying to assemble. It could mean a fracturing of the entire program—a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s plan to fight ISIS in Syria.

Can we please stop trying to rule this part of the world? I hate ISIS, but the group is a problem that should be dealt with by Iraq, Iran, and other local governments and powers. If we can’t even get a plan together to fight ISIS, why should we be trusted to control the region in any other way?