BEIRUT

Middle East

Nine top FSA commanders resign over aid

BEIRUT: Nine of the rebel Free Syrian Army command in Turkey have resigned, citing shortages and mismanagement of foreign military aid.

Lt. Col. Mohammad Abboud told AFP he and eight other officers quit because there was “too little” military aid from donor countries, including Western supporters.

And they said the rebels’ Supreme Military Council, of which they were key members, “has no role anymore. Donor countries have completely bypassed it.”

Their resignation from the 30-member SMC comes more than three years into the anti-Assad revolt.

Weapons shipped to Syria from the West, but more significantly from Gulf nations, are usually sent to specific groups rather than to the SMC, which was meant to centralize and coordinate the rebel military effort.

Recently, some Western military aid has trickled into Syria, but overall the U.S. has been reticent to arm rebels over fears advanced weapons could end up in jihadist hands.

“While we thank donor countries for their assistance, it has been really insufficient, and simply too little to win the fight,” Abboud said.

Abboud also said donor countries have “bypassed” the SMC. Instead, they have funneled military aid, including U.S.-made anti-tank missiles, to factions of their choosing.

Several rebel groups in northern Syria have recently publicized their receipt of TOW anti-tank missiles as part of the recent deliveries, but the shipments did not go through the SMC, they acknowledged.

Observers have pointed to an incident on the border with Turkey late last year, when the SMC lost control over a weapons depot in the face of a threat by militants from the Al-Qaeda splinter group ISIS, as a key moment of western disillusionment with the rebel leadership.

“We are fighting both the army and ISIS,” Abboud said. “Yet we haven’t got the help we need from countries who say they support our demands for democracy and a civil state.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 16, 2014, on page 8.

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Summary

Nine of the rebel Free Syrian Army command in Turkey have resigned, citing shortages and mismanagement of foreign military aid.

Lt. Col. Mohammad Abboud told AFP he and eight other officers quit because there was "too little" military aid from donor countries, including Western supporters.

Weapons shipped to Syria from the West, but more significantly from Gulf nations, are usually sent to specific groups rather than to the SMC, which was meant to centralize and coordinate the rebel military effort.


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