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Support for jihadists in Syria swells as US backing of rebels falls short

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"Before the revolution, there were no Al Qaeda here," says Abu Mohammed, the doctor. "When this regime makes these crimes, they come, and come to help. 

"The US says their [pro-democracy line only]; Al Qaeda says, 'We will help.' So what do we do, smile to the US and kick out Al Qaeda?" he adds. "The longer [the war] takes, the more of them there will be." 

US is making 'excuses'

American reluctance to help more in Syria is partly due to uncertainty about Syria's future, especially because the 2011 regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya are far from settled. 

Strategically, the US also sees through the prism of Afghanistan in the 1980s, when the CIA provided Stinger missiles and training to anti-Soviet mujahideen fighters, only to watch them eventually morph into anti-American militant groups such as Al Qaeda.  

The geopolitical stakes are high in Syria, too, where Russian, Chinese, and Iranian support for the regime – along with that of the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah – has ensured the longest and most lethal anti-regime battle so far of the Arab uprisings.

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