With Al Qaeda’s influence growing stronger and the US failure to devise a consistent policy in Syria, the country’s future looks bleak, a panel of experts warned.
Al Qaeda in Syria “now finds itself in a very settled, very secure position” after it began carrying out attacks this year on representatives of FSA for their participation in the Astana negotiations in Kazakhstan, Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute think tank – where the event was also held – told the audience.
“There was no protection from [the American] side,” he added.
Al Qaeda has been waging a campaign to sell itself as an alternative to the regime of president Bashar Al Assad, and “to convince Syrians it’s not as extreme as they fear,” Lister said. Most hardline circles among the group in Syria have begun to splinter off, he noted.
There may now be a central Al Qaeda wing in Idlib, he warned, and the US is “facing a dual threat” from seeing its interests in the region fall to the group, and also seeing the group strengthened to carry out attacks in the West.