(JNS.org) Nearly half of the Syrian civil war’s rebel fighters are aligned with jihadist or hardline Islamist groups, a new report says.
According to an advance copy of defense consulting service IHS Jane’s report, a copy of which was obtained by The Telegraph, opposition forces in Syria now number around 100,000 fighters, including an estimated 10,000 jihadists comprised of foreign fighters for groups linked to Al-Qaeda. Another 30,000 to 50,000 Syrian rebels are hardline Islamists who share the radical ideology of the jihadists, but are more focused on the Syrian civil war than on wider global jihad.
“The insurgency is now dominated by groups which have at least an Islamist viewpoint on the conflict. The idea that it is mostly secular groups leading the opposition is just not borne out,” Charles Lister, one of the report’s analysts, told The Telegraph.
The report lists two jihadist groups connected to Al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, who wish to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and replace it with an Islamic caliphate. These jihadist groups have also begun attacking moderate and secular rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army.
The report’s findings are at odds with U.S. and British intelligence, which put the number of jihadist and Islamist rebels at one-third or less of the total opposition forces. The report is also likely to fuel more concerns about Western support for Syrian civil war rebel groups in their fight against the Syrian government.