Pro-regime forces completed the encirclement of Aleppo City on July 28, isolating the main stronghold of mainstream opposition groups in Northern Syria. Meanwhile, Jabhat al-Nusra head Abu Muhammad al-Jolani issued a video statement announcing the formation of a new group called ‘Jabhat Fatah a-Sham’ with “no affiliation to any external entity” in a symbolic break with Al-Qaeda. The rebranding represents a calculated move to facilitate the unification of armed opposition groups in a “grand merger” that continues to pursue the long-term strategic vision of Al-Qaeda to establish an Islamic Emirate in Syria.
Since 2014, ISW has been tracking Jabhat al- Nusra, the official al- Qaeda affiliate in Syria. ISW believes that Jabhat al- Nusra poses one of the most significant long-term threats of any Salafi- jihadi group.