President Trump has decided to end the Obama Regime’s CIA program, endorsed by Sen. John McCain, that armed, trained, and funded the not-so moderate ISIS and al-Qaeda linked Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.
Washington Post The program was a central plank of a policy begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to step aside, but even its backers have questioned its efficacy since Russia deployed forces in Syria two years later.
Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgment of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power.
Officials said Trump made the decision to scrap the CIA program nearly a month ago, after an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster ahead of a July 7 meeting in Germany with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The move to end the secret program to arm the anti-Assad rebels was not a condition of the cease-fire negotiations, which were already well underway, said U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secret program.
Trump’s dealings with Russia have been under heavy scrutiny because of the investigations into the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election. The decision on the CIA-backed rebels will be welcomed by Moscow, which focused its firepower on those fighters after it intervened in Syria in 2015.
With the end of the CIA program, U.S. involvement in Syria now consists of a vigorous air campaign against the Islamic State and a Pentagon-run train-and-equip program in support of the largely Kurdish rebel force that is advancing on Islamic State strongholds in Raqqa and along the Euphrates River valley.
The Trump administration’s long-term strategy, following the defeat of the Islamic State, appears to be focused on stitching together a series of regional cease-fire deals among the U.S.-backed rebels, the Syrian government and Russia.
U.S. intelligence officials say battlefield gains by rebels in 2015 prompted Russia’s direct military intervention on the side of the Assad regime. Some U.S. officials and their allies in the region urged President Barack Obama to respond by providing the rebels with advanced antiaircraft weapons so they could better defend themselves. But Obama balked, citing concerns about the United States getting pulled into a conflict with Russia.
From the website, Friends of Syria: “Obama likes to call the Free Syrian Army (FSA) ‘moderate.’ But just like ISIS, members of the FSA have been raping, beheading, and butchering innocent civilians of all religions in Syria.”
U.S. officials said the decision had the backing of Jordan, where some of the rebels were trained, and appeared to be part of a larger Trump administration strategy to focus on negotiating limited cease-fire deals with the Russians.
Obama-backed ISIS and al-Qaeda linked (al-Nusra) “rebels” who were championed by Sen. John McCain on a visit to Syria, behead Syrian soldiers in front of children and regularly post online photos of their frequent beheadings of Syrian civilians and soldiers.