Only one week after it was revealed President Obama’s anti-ISIS effort had “four or five” viable fighters left, it appears the $500 million program’s Syrian commander has gone rogue.
Major Anas Obaid, also known as Abu Zayd, was the Syrian commander of the Pentagon program’s “Division 30.” A man claiming to be Zayd announced his independence from the U.S-backed program Tuesday on Facebook.
“In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, we, the grouping of revolutionaries of Atareb and its countryside, announce that we are outside Division 30 Infantry and we are an independent faction working on the Syrian lands in isolation from coordination with the international coalition,” Zayd wrote Tuesday, the Daily Beast reported.
The Facebook page has since been taken down.
Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad al-Dhaher, Divison 30′s chief of staff, also resigned last weekend, saying the program was “not serious,” the Telegraph reported Wednesday.
Adding to confusion are reports by an al-Qaida-affiliated group, Jabhat al-Nusra, that Zayd and his men handed over most of their U.S.-supplied weapons.
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“The Division 30 leader was arrested by Nusra when he entered Syria. He was planning to leave Division 30 with his group,” Abu Saeed al-Halabi, a Dutch member of Nusra, told the Daily Beast on Tuesday. “He will lead a new group from his city of Atarib. He proposed giving Nusra a large number of his vehicles and weapons in return for protection and freedom. He spoke out against the U.S., and will fight against the Assad-regime despite his deal with the U.S. [not to].”
U.S. Central Command did acknowledge 70 graduates of the Syria “train and equip” recently entered into Syria, the Telegraph reported Wednesday. Officials told the Daily Beast, however, there was “no indication” U.S.-trained anti-ISIS fighters defected to al-Nusra.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, or SOHR, said 12 four-wheel vehicles equipped with machine guns and ammunition belonging to Division 30 forces were seen in Syria on Sept. 20, the Telegraph reported. The U.K.-based nonprofit organization has followed the rise of ISIS and monitored human rights abuses in the region since 2006.
“This is yet another piece of evidence that the U.S. policy in Syria is, at best, incoherent and, at worst, counterproductive. Division 30 is a colossal failure,” Chris Harmer, an analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War, told the Daily Beast.
Obama’s anti-ISIS program will aim to train another 100-120 fighters in the program’s three remaining classes, NBC News reported Sept. 16.