Mike Giglio reports: On the afternoon of Nov. 26, near the border in southern Turkey, Mohamed al-Kadi got behind the wheel of a white Isuzu delivery truck and drove into Syria. In the back of the truck sat a shipment of advanced communications equipment, provided by the United States. Kadi’s mission was to bring it to the Free Syrian Army, or FSA, the U.S.-backed rebel coalition whose main base sat just a few miles into Syria.
Kadi, a deeply religious man partial to Muslim prayer beads and oddball humor, was a tech whiz with a degree in computer engineering. He’d been a young lieutenant in Damascus at the war’s outset but defected early to the rebel side, where his computer skills saw him pulled from the front lines. He worked as a senior technician for the FSA’s high command, based mainly inside Syria. But shortly after he crossed into Syria that afternoon, Kadi and the delivery truck disappeared. Days later, his body was found in a farm field, shot at point-blank range in the back of the head, hands tied behind his back.
The FSA blamed Kadi’s death on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which claims to be Al-Qaeda’s Syrian arm, saying the group had captured Kadi’s truck along a critical supply route and stolen the equipment inside.
The incident alarmed the U.S., which had long worried about the possibility of the supplies it sends the FSA falling into the hands of extremists. Some U.S. allies inside the rebellion shared those concerns. “We warned the U.S. government for over a year about ISIS gathering strength and spreading in the North,” said one opposition official involved in channeling U.S. assistance to the FSA.
Now many are questioning how much longer the FSA can survive, following news that fighters from a new, hardline coalition called the Islamic Front, which boasts an estimated 45,000 fighters in Syria, overtook its main bases and warehouses in Atimeh, a town near the Turkish border late last week. The powerful Islamist faction now stands poised to overtake the FSA as the country’s dominant rebel force. [Continue reading…]