Focus on Al Qaeda in Syria should also extend to Daesh


Last week the United States targeted a senior leader of an Al Qaeda-aligned group Hurras Al Din in a military raid in the province of Idlib in Syria. According to the US statement, the target of the riad was Abu Hamzah Al Yemeni, and his elimination aims to disrupt Al Qaeda’s ability to carry out attacks targeting US targets or civilians.

The raid is yet another demonstration of the ongoing US strategy to disrupt and prevent the growing capacity of Al Qaeda and other affiliated groups. It also comes weeks after the US designation of Sami Mahmud Mohammed Al Uraydi as a Global Terrorist for his leadership role in Hurras Al Din (HaD), offering a reward of up to $5 million for information on the identification or location of Al Uraydi.

While this US strategy in countering al Qaeda and emerging threats in Syria, the country is seeing increasing attacks launched by groups likely linked to Daesh cells. Last week an attack in Raqqa province in the north-east of Syria killed three Syrian military personnel, and a few days before in the same area another attack targeted Russian Wagner militia. Another attack in the centre of Syria near the desert of Homs targeted a military vehicle of Liwaa Al Quds, a militia affiliated with the Syrian Army, causing deaths and injuries. 

Although there was no official claim of responsibility by Daesh for the attacks, the tactics and delivery strongly suggest it was Daesh, or a well-trained and organised group like it. Either way, this central region of Syria is growing increasingly complicated with persistent terrorist activities in recent weeks.

Daesh’s growing capacity in central Syria could begin to attract other groups, fighters or even Daesh in the North-East or South of Syria, leading to growth and increased capacity. This kind of connection, flow of weapons and supplies also represents a grave risk for the US-led coalition particularly in the south-eastern area of Al Tanf.

US efforts to prevent the emerging of terrorist groups affiliated to Al Qaeda should also target Daesh and its emerging presence. The growing number of attacks should serve as a warning and highlight the need to observe the whole terrorist scene in Syria. Most importantly the strategy should look at the connection between criminal groups as terrorist groups as the criminals groups have been enjoying the freedom to work Syria for many years, and are financing and running supply chains for the re-emergence of these terrorist groups.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh