Wednesday, August 09, 2017
President Donald Trump's decision to end a CIA program that provided weapons and other supplies to rebels fighting the Syrian regime all but certainly amounts to a death knell for the opposition's cause, those familiar with the program say, and an end to the only publicly known U.S. effort to overthrow President Bashar Assad.
"Psychologically, it's a crushing blow to the Syrian rebels," says a former U.S. special operations commander with current experience in Syria, who, like others who spoke to U.S. News for this story, asked to remain anonymous to discuss sensitive information.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Trump spiked the five-year-old covert program, which even supporters say failed to achieve its ultimate goal of at least securing a dissident movement in the autocratic Middle East nation, if not precipitating Assad's ouster.
Ultimately, the program spent hundreds of millions of dollars training and dispersing weapons to militia in Syria willing to fight against Assad's regime, according to officials who worked with it. It peaked during its first four years and then gradually tapered off before becoming openly questioned by those carrying out the mission once the rebel stronghold of Aleppo fell last December.
The program, first revealed by The New York Times in June 2012, was born from, and perhaps complicated by a reluctance within the Obama administration to commit the U.S. fully to regime change in Syria in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring movement over concerns of regional chaos. The concern remained even after the U.S. began deploying forces to fight the Islamic State group in Syria after its rise in 2014.
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