Trump ends CIA program arming anti-Assad rebels in Syria

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The Trump administration has decided to terminate the CIA program which armed and trained anti-Assad rebels, two US officials say.


President Donald Trump and his administration has decided to halt the CIA's covert program which armed and trained rebel groups in Syria fighting against the government under President Bashar al-Assad, two US officials said Wednesday.

According to one of the officials, the decision is part of an effort to improve Russia relations with the administration.

The CIA program started in 2013 under then President Barack Obama's administration's efforts to overthrow Assad, but was of little success says the officials. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The CIA declined to comment on the matter. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders also declined to comment at a White House briefing.

Heidi Zhou-Castro, an Al Jazeera journalist reporting from Washington, D.C., said the CIA's intervention to arm Syrian rebels has been under question since's Russia's interference in 2015 to support Assad.

"But even at its inception, this programme was considered to be minuscule - it would only arm a few hundred Syrian rebel fighters a month," she said.

"And then in 2015 when Russia entered the conflict, throwing its oversized military weight behind Assad ... the CIA programme's perceived impact diminished to nearly inconsequential.

"But the US held on to it, apparently in an effort to maintain it as a bargaining tool in future negotiations with Russia."

Juan Cole, history professor at the University of Michigan, told Al Jazeera that the groups the CIA was arming and training are of minuscule amount and have mostly been defeated.

"So they're not much of a bargaining chip if that's what they were being held for," he said. "But I would be very surprised if [Trump] has the stamina or the interest in Syria to put down a marker for a long-term US presence there."

Sources from Al Jazeera were used.


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Political Outsource | Connect With The World: Trump ends CIA program arming anti-Assad rebels in Syria
Trump ends CIA program arming anti-Assad rebels in Syria
The Trump administration has decided to terminate the CIA program which armed and trained anti-Assad rebels, two US officials say.
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