moderate rebels
© Reuters / Ammar Abdullah
Tulsi Gabbard drew criticism this week for saying that the US backed Al Qaeda in Syria. One of those offended was journalist Clint Watts — but it turns out, Watts himself was in favor of 'befriending' Al Qaeda-linked groups.

Gabbard slammed US policy in Syria during Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate in Ohio, calling it a "regime change war" in which Washington had sided with Al Qaeda and used the terror group as the "groundforce" in their efforts to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Hawaii congresswoman's comments prompted outraged MSNBC journalist Watts to tweet that her take on Syria was "completely false." The US "did not back al Qaeda in Syria," he wrote, asking: "Why didn't the moderators or other candidates challenge her on these falsehoods?"

Watts likely immediately regretted jumping into the debate over Gabbard's Syria stance, however, as he was swiftly reminded by journalist Max Blumenthal that he part-authored an article for Foreign Affairs magazine in 2014 which recommended that Washington "befriend" an Al Qaeda-linked group.

The piece focused on the Ahrar al-Sham affiliate, with the article subhead advising that it was a group "worth befriending."


To be fair, Watts was certainly not alone in suggesting that the US become pals with Al Qaeda's friends to fulfill wider foreign policy goals.

Former CIA director David Petraeus also suggested using "moderate" members of the organization's Syria affiliate, the Al-Nusra Front, to help fight ISIS. Former CIA officer Evan McMullin even confirmed that his own role at the agency was to "convince" Al Qaeda operatives "to work with us."

These facts admittedly blow quite a large hole in Watts' argument against Gabbard this week.

Gabbard was also blasted by journalists for using the "Russian talking point" that the US "armed" Al Qaeda. Blumenthal was on hand with facts again, posting a photograph of an Al Qaeda fighter firing a US-supplied TOW missile in Aleppo.