U.S.-backed rebels launched their first attack against Islamic State. They lost.
Video posted by the news agency showed jubilant Islamic State fighters parading in trucks sporting the New Syrian Army’s insignia and fawning over heavy weapons and ammunition belts apparently captured in the fighting.
The New Syrian Army, however, had promised to be different.
It first appeared in November 2015 with the stated goal of pushing Islamic State out of the eastern Syrian desert. Since then, its fighters have shown up in slickly produced videos uploaded to social media that depict uniformed men training with U.S. weapons.
Analysts say the group – which is headquartered near Tanf, a southern town close to where the borders of Jordan, Iraq and Syria converge – has also received support from Jordanian special forces units.
Wednesday’s defeat, however, may have cost the group a full fifth of its cadres.
Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the pro-opposition monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, estimated that the rebel group had comprised about 125 fighters, but that after Islamic State’s counteroffensive “they are probably less than a hundred.”
“They did nothing,” he said. “They went to the border and came back. This was more a media show than anything else.”
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