While wiping out ISIS is the primary goal of the U.S. air campaign in Syria, ISIS is not the only target. Now, one of those other apparent targets is vowing retaliation. (Video via U.S. Central Command)
Al-Nusra Front is Al-Qaeda’s most powerful affiliate in Syria and is one of the many rebel groups trying to overthrow Assad. (Video via YouTube / Egzon Latifi)
The U.S. has designated Al-Nusra a terrorist organization — accusing it of hijacking the Syrian conflict for its own gains. Like its rival ISIS, Al-Nusra is also trying to set up its own Islamic state within Syria.
In a new video, the group’s spokesman condemned the U.S.-led air campaign in Syria as a “war against Islam.” He threatened retaliation for bombings that reportedly took out dozens of Nusra fighters. (Video via YouTube / Thalamus Syria)
The U.S. says it is not directly targeting AlNusra. Though it has confirmed strikes against another Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Khorasan group, which is thought to have direct ties to Al-Nusra. (Video via U.S. Central Command)
The problem is, in widening the airstrikes to include other Islamist factions, the U.S. risks alienating the civilian population. Many Syrians see the group as their only protection from the Assad regime.
Here's how a former fighter of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army it to The Wall Street Journal: “The regime has [support from] Hezbollah and those Iraqi militant fighters, and there are no strikes on them…When Assad was killing and torturing us, it was groups like Nusra that defended our dignity.”
His opinion was shared by the thousands of protesters who took to the streets in rebel-held parts of Syria this week — angry the U.S. is targeting groups like Al-Nusra while ignoring the Assad regime in its strikes. (Video via YouTube / ShaamNetwork S.N.N)
Add to that reports of civilian casualties from the strikes, and the concern is, as Syria analyst Aaron Zelin put it, the "US has already lost the narrative on the ground in Syria in less than a week.”
The warning from Al-Nusra came as the U.S. and its allies struck a Syrian town near the Turkish border — hitting an ISIS building and two armed vehicles.