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CIA Study Shows That Supporting Syrian Rebels Unlikely To Work

Mujahideen in Afghanistan

President Barack Obama is not the only one who thinks arming the Syrian rebels is a “fantasy,” an exhaustive study by the CIA shows that throughout the agency’s history covert support of rebel fighters has had very little success. According to The New York Times, the still classified study was commissioned in 2012 and continued throughout 2013 to help policymakers decide whether supporting the Syrian rebels was a good idea.

The study concluded it was not a good idea and when the findings were presented in the White House Situation Room officials within the Obama Administration became even more skeptical of the idea that they could turn the tide in Syria by arming and training the so-called “moderate” rebels.

Despite the study, President Obama did authorize a CIA program that trains rebel fighters in Jordan. The program was later expanded to include sites in Saudi Arabia with the goal of training 5,000 rebel fighters a year. Guns have also already been sent in to Syria where they were captured by jihadist militants. Many of ISIS’ weapons are US made.

Of course, there was one exception to the general trend of failure when it came to arming rebel groups – the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.

The C.I.A. review, 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.

The original plan was to arm the Syrian rebels to fight the Assad government, but that has shifted to focusing on defeating ISIS which has now surged into Iraq and taken large amounts of territory. It’s worth noting that the Obama Administration is still technically calling for regime change in Syria despite this new dynamic.

So the US government continues to arm and train rebels to fight in Syria even though its own intelligence thoroughly documents that the effort is likely doomed. What’s the point of commissioning a study just to ignore it?

CommunityThe Bullpen

CIA Study Shows That Supporting Syrian Rebels Unlikely To Work

Mujahideen in Afghanistan

President Barack Obama is not the only one who thinks arming the Syrian rebels is a “fantasy,” an exhaustive study by the CIA shows that throughout the agency’s history covert support of rebel fighters has had very little success. According to The New York Times, the still classified study was commissioned in 2012 and continued throughout 2013 to help policymakers decide whether supporting the Syrian rebels was a good idea.

The study concluded it was not a good idea and when the findings were presented in the White House Situation Room officials within the Obama Administration became even more skeptical of the idea that they could turn the tide in Syria by arming and training the so-called “moderate” rebels.

Despite the study, President Obama did authorize a CIA program that trains rebel fighters in Jordan. The program was later expanded to include sites in Saudi Arabia with the goal of training 5,000 rebel fighters a year. Guns have also already been sent in to Syria where they were captured by jihadist militants. Many of ISIS’ weapons are US made.

Of course, there was one exception to the general trend of failure when it came to arming rebel groups – the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.

The C.I.A. review, 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.

The original plan was to arm the Syrian rebels to fight the Assad government, but that has shifted to focusing on defeating ISIS which has now surged into Iraq and taken large amounts of territory. It’s worth noting that the Obama Administration is still technically calling for regime change in Syria despite this new dynamic.

So the US government continues to arm and train rebels to fight in Syria even though its own intelligence thoroughly documents that the effort is likely doomed. What’s the point of commissioning a study just to ignore it?

Photo by Sherurcij under Creative Commons license.

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Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.