The fact of the matter is that although the United States has provided military assistance to individual Syrian armed opposition groups led by “trusted commanders” since 2012, reportedly via the CIA, it has not acted forcibly enough to leverage its influence within the rebel movement to prevent the development of an Al Qaeda proto-state in northern Syria. Worryingly, this situation leads to the distinct possibility that the extremist actors within the Syrian armed opposition would seek to benefit from the more aggressive Plan B lines of effort to their great advantage. These extremist actors could appropriate MANPADs for their own use, or that of transnational jihadist organizations. And a U.S.-built safe zone in northern Syria could potentially empower Al Qaeda and its fellow travelers to further entrench themselves in local, opposition-held communities.
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