A general view of the town of Arsal (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
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Free Syrian Army commanders around Arsal vehemently deny any involvement in recent clashes with the Lebanese security forces, but admit to cooperating with Islamist groups in military operations along the Syrian-Lebanese border.Often at odds on the Syrian battlefields, the FSA, Nusra Front and ISIS have entered a tenuous allegiance of convenience to fight Assad-aligned forces in the badlands surrounding Arsal. FSA commanders in and around Aral denounced recent clashes between Islamists and the Lebanese security forces.While the FSA's waning influence is not a new phenomenon, its decline in power around Arsal poses a particular threat to Lebanese security forces as Islamists rush to fill the void it leaves behind.Redeploying troops and coordinating tactically with other FSA brigades elsewhere in Syria would be exceedingly difficult in Arsal, he said.Several FSA commanders suggested that if the living conditions and treatment of Syrian refugees in Arsal do not improve, young people will continue to be drawn to radical Islamist groups.
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