Pakistan could be given the responsibility for training two militant brigades in Syria, with about 5,000-10,000 militants.
Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest spenders of the foreign-sponsored war in Syria is turning to Pakistan to train militants, repeating a partnership that once failed in Afghanistan, a new report says.
The Foreign Policy Magazine wrote in an article on Thursday that Saudi Arabia is embarking on a major new effort to train Syrian rebel forces.
The article cites three sources with knowledge of the program that say Riyadh has enlisted the help of Pakistani instructors to do it.
According to the sources Pakistan could be given the responsibility for training about 5,000-10,000 militants from two brigades.
The report says the main goal of the Saudi project is to unite the mainstream armed opposition in Syria, many of whom are extremist forces, under the banner of a unified army.
The decision came after signs of rift in relations between Washington and Riyadh became evident.
Saudi Arabia’s decision to move forward with training the Syria militants independent of the United States is the latest sign of a split between the two longtime allies.
In Syria, Saudi officials were aggrieved by Washington’s decision to cancel a strike on the Syrian government in reprisal for a chemical attack on the Damascus suburbs this summer.
A top Saudi official told the Washington Post that Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan was unaware of the cancelation of the strike. “We found about it from CNN,” he said.
As a result, Saudi Arabia has decided to follow its own plans which rely on a network of Saudi allies in addition to Pakistan, such as Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and France.
“As the Saudis expand their effort to topple Assad, analysts say the central challenge is not to inflict tactical losses on the Syrian army, but to organize a coherent force that can coordinate its actions across the country. In other words, if Riyadh hopes to succeed where others have failed, it needs to get the politics right — convincing the fragmented rebel groups, and their squabbling foreign patrons, to work together in pursuit of a shared goal,” the article writes.
“The biggest problem facing the Saudis now is the same one facing the US, France, and anyone else interested in helping the rebels: the fragmentation of the rebels into groups fighting each other for local and regional dominance rather than cooperating to overthrow Assad,” said David Ottaway, a scholar at the Wilson Center who wrote a biography of Prince Bandar.
Syria militants are facing with deep divisions and rivalries with every now and then several of them pledging alliance together to form independent armies.
On Thursday, al-Qaeda leader Aymen Zawahiri who has the strongest militant groups on the ground in Syria fighting alongside the US-backed opposition urged all armed groups to be united and overthrow the Syrian government and set up their own ruling system.