Is support of the Syrian Rebels a reasonable action for the United States from a historical perspective?

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Answered by: William, An Expert in the Wars, Battles and Conflicts Category
The current controversy surrounding the White House lately involves the prospect of a U.S. Military Strike in Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack supposedly launched by the Assad Regime against the Syrian Rebels opposing his government. There is little doubt that the Assad Regime is a tyrannical dictatorship and that atrocities have been committed, however, who exactly are the Syrian Rebels whom we are being asked to support, and will our support result in a beneficial outcome for the Syrian people and United States interests? The answer to the first question may lead to a reasonable answer to the second.

Four major groups are involved in the active opposition to the Assad government. First is the Free Syrian Army, a cadre of non religious based freedom fighters intent on overthrowing the Assad government. Second and third would be the Syrian Liberation Front and the Syrian Islamic Front. Both are of an Islamist based background. The wildcard and last of the major opposition groups would be Jabhat al-Nusra, post Iraqi-war insurgents with palpable ties to the Al-Qaeda network.

Now, certainly, if Assad has been using chemical weapons against his opponents and as a consequence killing and injuring innocent Syrian citizens, then some response is called for on an international stage. However, the Obama administration, the U.S. Congress and the people of the United States should take into consideration the long term effects of supporting anyone even loosely tied with Al-Qaeda, who have been labelled a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council, NATO, The United States, The European Union and Great Britain amongst others. From a historical perspective, the consequences of supporting such a group has a not so beneficial outcome.

The formation of Al-Qaeda was the direct result of just such support of a rebel group in opposition to the invasion of Afghanistan by the U.S.S.R. in the 1970s and 1980s. In brief, the U.S.S.R. invaded Afghanistan and in response, while avoiding direct military intervention, the United States, and in particular the CIA, provided billions of dollars, weaponry and other support to the Mujahideen freedom fighters who were opposing the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) and their Soviet Supporters.

Osama bin-Laden, a Saudi Arabian Prince who was funneling weapons and wealth to the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan, was later banished from Saudi Arabia and disowned by his family and consequently traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan where he set up a training facility and support network, known as Maktab al-Khidamat, for guerrilla and terrorist activities in a facility in Peshawar, Pakistan named Al-Qaeda (translated into English as 'the base') and which his terror network eventually became known as.

When the Soviets abandoned their part of the war in Afghanistan in 1992, the DRA's President, Mohammad Najibullah, was deposed and various Mujahideen forces began fighting amongst each other for control of the country, leading a local mullah named Mohammed Omar to create a new armed movement of students from Saudi backed religious schools known as the Taliban. When the Soviet Union had pulled out of Afghanistan, U.S. support dried up on the grounds that with the Soviets gone, U.S. intervention was no longer needed. The Taliban, and it's Al-Qaeda support took this as a sign of betrayal by the U.S. and declared a global jihad against the United States and all western democratic powers. The results were terrorist acts all across the globe, active Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighting against the West in the U.S. Iraqi war and eventually led to the 9/11 attacks in the continental Untied States.

With that history in mind, the Obama administration, the U.S. Congress, the American people, the United Nations, NATO, the European Union and all of the major powers of the world should consider carefully just who we are being asked to support in the Syrian Civil War and what the eventual repercussions could mean. Political maneuvering such as was performed in Afghanistan in the 1980s could very well come back to bite us in the behind and any support or military actions in Syria should be acted upon only with the full knowledge of what has gone on before and what could very well occur in the future.

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