by Brad Hoff
September 19, 2015
Antiwar.com

Abu Omar al-Shishani, the red-bearded face of ISIS terror lately described in such headlines as ‘Star pupil’: Pied piper of ISIS recruits was trained by U.S. for the fact that he received American military training as part of an elite Georgian army unit in 2006 and after, did not stop playing for “team America” once he left his home country in the Caucuses. He actually enjoyed US backing and American taxpayer largesse as late as 2013, soon after entering Syria with his band of Chechen jihadists.

A new book about ISIS chronicles the terror group’s earliest successes when it first made a name for itself on the Syrian battlefield by tipping the scales in favor of rebels in Northern Aleppo who had spent nearly a total of two years attempting to conquer the Syrian government’s seemingly impenetrable Menagh Airbase.

Benjamin Hall, journalist and author of Inside ISIS: The Brutal Rise of a Terrorist Army, was embedded in Northern Syria during part of the 2012-2013 siege of Menagh, even staying in FSA camps outside the base as attacks were underway.

At that time the Revolutionary Military Council of Aleppo was the US/UK officially sanctioned command structure in the region headed by FSA Colonel Abdul Jabbar al-Okaidi, described in international press at the time as “a main recipient” of Western aid.

Hall, who throughout his book expresses sympathy and occasional outright support for the insurgent groups within which he was embedded, describes the pathetic state of a rebel movement in disarray and lacking morale. He identifies a singular turning point which renewed both the tide of rebel military momentum and morale in Northern Syria:

That day in Minnah [or alternately Menagh], I was reminded that nothing happens on time in the Middle East. It took ten months for the rebels to finally capture that base, but it only fell when the FSA were joined by the ISIS leader Abu Omar Shishani and his brutal gang of Chechens. When we had been there, it had been under the sole control of badly funded, badly armed rebels with little knowledge of tactical warfare – but when Shishani arrived, he took control of the operation, and the base fell soon after. [1]

Hall further relates that Omar Shishani’s (or Omar “the Chechen”) presence evoked a certain level of mystique and awe among his FSA associates as he “systematically obliterated Menagh defenses by sacrificing as many men as it took” and rightly concludes that, “it is no exaggeration to say that Shishani and other battle hardened members of ISIS are the ones who brought the early military success.” [2]

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