The U.S. has not met with the Islamic Front…yet.
Secretary of State John Kerry used the word “yet” today while talking with reporters in the Philippines. The remarks came days after the Islamic Front, a rebel group in Syria, seized a headquarters and warehouse full of U.S.-provided supplies from the American-backed Supreme Military Command (SMC) last week. The move by the Islamic Front prompted the U.S. to suspend nonlethal aid to rebels in northern Syria.
“The United States has not met yet to date with the Islamic Front. But It’s possible that it could take place,” Kerry said, during a joint press availability with Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario. The secretary of state was visiting Manila and Tacloban to meet with top officials and survey typhoon relief efforts.
The U.S. has urged other countries to funnel aid through the SMC, but the Islamic Front’s seizure of SMC supplies has raised doubts about the SMC’s viability.
The Islamic Front is not part of the two main groups identified by the U.S. as extremist militias, the al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, both of which are reportedly affiliated with al Qaeda.
Peace talks are slated for Jan. 22 in Geneva, where world powers will work toward a plan to orchestrate the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s in favor of a transitional government. But the arrangement of those talks has been fraught with disputes over whom to include. Assad also insists he will not step down.
Kerry today hinted at the possible invitation of more rebel groups.
“There is an effort afoot among all of the support nations of the Syrian opposition, the moderate opposition, to want to broaden the base of modern opposition. And to broaden the base of representation of the Syrian people in the Geneva Two negotiation,” Kerry said. “That obviously does not include the radical extremists and the worst elements that are to some degree on the ground.”