(INS) Awooga! Awooga! The largest Al-Queda affiliate, the Al-Nusra front in Syria, is being widely reported as having “split off” or “declared independence” from Al-Queda renaming itself the Levant Conquest Front. With nearly 15,000 militants and territory in Idlib province under their direct control, Al-Nusra has adopted elements of ISIS’s emerging-state actor approach. It is a member of the “Army of Conquest” coalition that includes other Syrian rebels as well as salafi takfiri extremists targeting Assad’s regime and marched on Lataki prompting Russian intervention. Correspondingly,al it was the Army of Conquest and other “west-of-Aleppo” groups that were targeted in the subsequent Russian campaign. NOT ISIS itself (which only held territory east of Aleppo.)
However, the video release includes a lot of tricky wording and both the US State Department and DNI are advising caution not to consider the new Levant Conquest Front as being truly separate from AQ yet. For example, the leaders have still not publicly renounced their oaths of allegiance to Al-Zawhari, a key element if they were to truly go independent and that would have to be substantiated. (e.g. status isn’t magic, it has to become publicly known to be recognized)
In my theory of emerging state actors is a balancing feedback loop (limit to growth) of descent into factions. It especially hits these actors harder than local insurgencies because of the mix of foreign fighters (who may not all hail from the same origin country) and local fighters; so there’s no one common local grievance to solely bind around.