What a shock, when we arm, train, and support acceptable rebels, we attract more acceptable rebels!
In northeast Syria American trainers working with Syrian Kurds reported a growing number of Arabs are volunteering to join the Kurdish dominated (and U.S. supported) SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). For over a year about 80 percent of the SDF strength (currently about 25,000) was Kurdish with the rest being Christian and Moslem Arabs. But with the weakening of ISIL because of battlefield defeats and growing desertions (and fewer new recruits) more Syrian Arabs are willing to fight and prefer to do that with the SDF, who are the most successful Syrian rebels. Many of the new volunteers have no military experience at all and the U.S. is hustling to expand its training program, which takes longer for men with no military experience. [emphasis added]
This recruiting success years into the civil war is why I was furious over all the excuses for not arming rebels because of how tough it was to find acceptable rebels.
I wanted to find whatever acceptable rebels we could identify and start arming them to begin a cycle of generating more acceptable rebels:
Since the appeal of the more Islamist (and jihadi) groups has been their effectiveness in battle (which has meant they attract foreign arms or seize them more often from the government), arming the secular and nationalist groups can be expected to reverse the appeal of the Islamists. So this 25% of the rebels could grow with new recruits and at the expense of the groups we aren't arming.
Then look for some of the groups with Islamic character to move away from that outlook in exchange for arms, training, and assistance. If they are losing people to the secular and nationalist groups we help, they will have incentive to move away from an Islamic character.
And once the non-Islamists and non-jihadis are more effective, it will be easier to pressure our Arab allies into reducing support for these Islamist elements.
It isn't too shocking that the Islamists are the most important element right now. They fight the hardest and so get more results and attract recruits and arms. In World War II, the most effective resistance fighters against the Nazis were communists. Is it any wonder that communists were so strong in post-World War II Western Europe?
We found some acceptable rebels and have given them real support, and now find more want to join the acceptable rebels.
Pity we didn't do this 3 or 4 years (and 400,000 dead) ago.