— The Erimtan Angle —

‘Officials say the move is aimed at accelerating covert US support to militant groups, while the Pentagon is preparing to establish its own training bases. The prospect of expanding the CIA program was discussed at a meeting of senior national security officials at the White House last week. The proposed CIA buildup would expand a clandestine mission that has grown substantially over the past year. The CIA has declined to comment on any aspect of its role in Syria. The agency now vets and trains about 400 insurgents fighting against the government of President Bashar Assad each month (15 November 2014)’.

The “Obama administration has already outlined a $500 million program to train and arm 5,000 “moderate” militants in Syria to fight against ISIL and the Assad government, but according to the Pentagon, the number would be something between 12,000 and 15,000”.[1]  As can be read in the New York Times, “in April 2013, President Obama authorized the C.I.A. to begin a program to arm the rebels at a base in Jordan, and more recently the administration decided to expand the training mission with a larger parallel Pentagon program in Saudi Arabia to train ‘vetted’ rebels to battle fighters of the Islamic State, with the aim of training approximately 5,000 rebel troops per year . . . The debate over whether Mr. Obama acted too slowly to support the Syrian rebellion has been renewed after both former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta wrote in recent books that they had supported a plan presented in the summer of 2012 by David H. Petraeus, then the C.I.A. director, to arm and train small groups of rebels in Jordan. Mr. Obama rejected that plan, but in the months that followed, Obama administration officials continued to debate the question of whether the C.I.A. should arm the rebels. Mr. Petraeus’s original plan was reworked until Mr. Obama signed a secret order authorizing the covert training mission after intelligence agencies concluded that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had used chemical weapons against opposition forces and civilians”.[2]  The journalist Mark Mazzetti continues that a “C.I.A. review [of the agency’s covert arming programmes], according to several former American officials familiar with its conclusions, found that the agency’s aid to insurgencies had generally failed in instances when no Americans worked on the ground with the foreign forces in the conflict zones, as is the administration’s plan for training Syrian rebels. One exception, the report found, was when the C.I.A. helped arm and train mujahedeen rebels fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan during the 1980s, an operation that slowly bled the Soviet war effort and led to a full military withdrawal in 1989. That covert war was successful without C.I.A. officers in Afghanistan, the report found, largely because there were Pakistani intelligence officers working with the rebels in Afghanistan. But the Afghan-Soviet war was also seen as a cautionary tale. Some of the battle-hardened mujahedeen fighters later formed the core of Al Qaeda and used Afghanistan as a base to plan the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. This only fed concerns that no matter how much care was taken to give arms only to so-called moderate rebels in Syria, the weapons could ultimately end up with groups linked to Al Qaeda, like the Nusra Front”.[3]

[1] “US weighs expanded CIA training for Syrian militants: Report” Press TV (15 November 2014). http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/11/15/386109/cia-to-deepen-activities-in-syria/.

[2] Mark Mazzetti, “C.I.A. Study of Covert Aid Fueled Skepticism About Helping Syrian Rebels” The New York Times (14 November 2014). http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/15/us/politics/cia-study-says-arming-rebels-seldom-works.html?_r=1.

[3] Mark Mazzetti, “C.I.A. Study of Covert Aid Fueled Skepticism About Helping Syrian Rebels”.

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