The CIA is expanding a covert effort to train opposition militant groups active in Syria amid concern that “moderate, U.S.-backed militias are rapidly losing ground in the country’s civil war”, U.S. officials told The Washington Post.
The US daily reported Thursday that the CIA program is so minuscule that it is expected to produce only a few hundred trained militiamen each month even after it is enlarged.
“The CIA’s mission, officials said, has been defined by the White House’s desire to seek a political settlement, a scenario that relies on an eventual stalemate among the warring factions rather than a clear victor. As a result, officials said, limits on the agency’s authorities enable it to provide enough support to help ensure that politically moderate, U.S.-supported militias don’t lose but not enough for them to win”, the daily indicated.
The officials, who spoke to Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said the agency has sent additional paramilitary teams to secret bases in the Jordanian kingdom in recent weeks in a push to double the number of opposition gunmen getting CIA instruction and weapons before being sent back to Syria.
Current and former U.S. officials told the U.S. daily that the intelligence agency has trained fewer than 1,000 insurgents this year.
“The CIA effort was described as an urgent bid to bolster moderate Syrian militias, which have been unable to mount a serious challenge to (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad”, the daily stated.
The Cia is “ramping up and expanding its effort,” said a U.S. official familiar with operations in Syria, because “it was clear that the opposition was losing, and not only losing tactically but on a more strategic level”.
The latest setback came last month, when 11 of the largest armed factions in Syria, including some backed by the United States, announced the formation of an alliance with a goal of creating an Islamic state. The alliance is led by Al-Nusra Front, a group that has sworn allegiance to the terrorist al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan.
Moreover, the U.S. officials said the classified program has been constrained by limits on Cia resources, the reluctance of opposition gunmen to leave Syria for U.S. instruction and Jordan’s restrictions on the Cia’s paramilitary presence over its territory.
Officials also underlined that the main Cia training effort does not involve instruction on using high-powered weapons such as rockets and antitank munitions, which are being supplied by main regional Arab countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
“Although the agency is involved in tracking those arms flows and vetting recipients”, the report in Washington Post read.
It also noted that the Cia program amounts to a trickle into the ranks of opposition militants, who total about 100,000 gunmen.
Recently, fierce clashes erupted between the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front terrorist group and the free Syrian army in the wake of disputes on power and control sharing over areas not reclaimed so far by the Syrian army.
The Syrian national military launched a wide-scale military operation in May 2013 in the country’s main provinces to restore security and release citizens from terrorist threats.
Syria was hit by a violent unrest since mid-March 2011, where the Syrian government accuses foreign actors of orchestrating the conflict by supporting the militant opposition groups with arms and money.
Source: Al Manar