An intelligence report assembled for the US State Department by members of the Syrian opposition paints a bleak picture of the chaotic situation in rebel-held areas of Syria's north. Government forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are on the retreat, but with squabbling civilian opposition in disarray, large parts of territory are in the hands of disorganized bands of rebels, many of whom are more interested in bounty than in building a new state. If this dynamics continue, Syria looks likely to end up a "failed state", writes David Ignatius at the Washington Post.
"There are hundreds of small groups (10-20 fighters) spread all over the area of Aleppo," says the report, noting that the "rebel violations are becoming a normal daily phenomenon, especially against civilians, including looting public and private factories, storage places, houses and cars."
The clear winner so far has been the Al Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra), a shadowy insurgent group that has links to Al Qaeda organization in Iraq and (Sunni) Islamist extremists in the wider Middle East.
For its humble beginnings in late 2011, the group has evolved into one of the most effective rebel groups fighting the regime forces, attracting thousands of local recruits, weapons seized from government troops, and foreign funding in the process. And, as the original rebel group, the Free Syrian Army, disintegrated, Al Nusra fighters gained a measure of respect from many Syrians for their honesty, iron discipline, and success in battle.
Read more about Al Qaeda in Syria.
- Current Situation in Syria
- Guide to Al Qaeda in the Middle East
- Bashar al-Assad's Peace Plan for Syria