American intelligence officials warned the White House against any additional attacks on al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria, according to a report.
US warplanes launched fresh airstrikes in northwestern Syria on Thursday, targeting the shadowy Khorasan Group, a US-invented term referring to an al-Qaeda cell within Jabhat al-Nusra.
Al-Nusra is al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria and is fighting both President Bashar al-Assad and the “moderate” militants the United States is counting on to battle ISIL, the main target of airstrikes in Syria.
Before the US military carried out the first wave of airstrikes in Syria on Sept. 22, intelligence officials warned senior Obama administration officials that targeting al-Qaeda’s Syria branch would drive a wedge between the group and their allies within the US-backed militancy, the Daily Beast reports.
The Sept. 22 airstrikes, which targeted both ISIL and al-Qaeda positions, appear to have turned the al-Nusra terrorists against US-backed militants, denouncing them as “corrupt” lackeys of the White House, the report said.
At the time of the initial strikes, US officials stressed that the Khorasan Group was the primary target not al-Nusra, but some militant groups maintain that Khorasan was only a pretext.
US officials appear reluctant to acknowledge that the air campaign is widening in Syria.
“There were no strikes conducted against the al Nusra front,” Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commander of US Central Command, said on Thursday. “We did conduct a number of strikes, and the strikes were focused on the Khorasan Group.”