While the U.S. emphasizes that it does not support radical jihadists in Syria, it actually supported a group of Chechen jihadists led by Omar al-Shishani or Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili, who now commands the Islamic State forces in Syria.
Abu Omar al-Shishani was first trained by the U.S. as part of an elite Georgian army unit and served until 2006. He was involved in the Georgian conflict with Russia.Al-Shishani later moved from Georgia and ended up in Syria with a group of Chechen jihadists fighting against the Assad regime. In August 2013 Al Shishani and his jihadist group were instrumental in capturing the Menagh air base that had resisted rebel attacks for 10 months previously:At the time of this attack, the Revolutionary Council of Aleppo was the command structure officially sanctioned and supported by the US and UK. The Council was headed by Free Syrian Army Colonel Abdul Jabbar al-Okadi described by the press as the main recipient of western aid. After the Menagh Base was taken, Colonel al-Okadi appeared in a video alongside Abu Jandal a leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria(ISIS):Ford admitted that rebels funded by the U.S. State Department included ISIS. He told a McClatchy reporter he had called Oakaidi to tell him cooperation with Shishani and his jihadists was "extremely unhelpful, extra unhelpful." What it shows is that even rebels supported by the U.S. have a quite different agenda than the U.S. They care less about how radical the groups are they ally with as long as they are helpful in fighting Assad. Rebels of every stripe were horrified and angered when the U.S. bombed the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. The only reason rebels fight the Islamic State is that IS has attacked them.You would think that Okaidi's relationship with the U.S. would end with the IS episode but in July 2015 Okaidi was interviewed on CNN by Christiane Amanpour appealing for a US no-fly zone in Syria to support moderate rebels. In a recent poll by ORB international 82 percent of Syrians blamed the U.S. for the growth of ISIS. This would not be the first time the U.S. had encouraged jihadists only to suffer blowback. The CIA funded jihadists in their successful campaign against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan including one well-known jihadist by the name of Osama Bin Laden. As with Bin Laden, Shishani became a wanted terrorist.Shishani was added to the US Treasury Department's list of Specially Designated Global terrorists on September 24th 2014. On May 5 2015 the U.S. State Department Rewards for Justice Program announced that a reward of up to US $5 million is offered for information that could lead to his capture. The appended video purports to show an attack by the FSA on the Islamic State led by an Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front commander just in August.
This week, the jihadist group Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar, or the Army of Emigrants and Supporters, led by a fighter from the Caucasus known as Abu Omar al-Shesheni — the Chechen — worked with Free Syrian Army battalions to take the Menagh air base in Aleppo Province after 10 months of trying.Two of his jihadist members drove a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device on a suicide mission into the base killing many of the remaining defenders.
The group singled out for praise in the video, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar, was precisely Omar Shishani’s own brutal Chechen group (“Army of Emigrants and Helpers”) which turned the tide of the battle. Most significant about FSA Col. Okaidi himself, clearly the operational head of this jihadi “basketball team,” was that he had been paid a personal visit by his State Department patron, Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, just months prior to the final victory at Menagh.This shows at one time that the FSA and the Islamic State fought alongside each other under command of the US-supported FSA.