CIA-backed “moderate Syrian rebels” are eyeing closer ties with terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda over fears of “abandonment” by a President Trump.
According to a report in the Washington Post Saturday, rebel groups are weighing their options as more than three years of CIA support could be ended by the next administration.
“Among the options, say U.S. officials, regional experts and the rebels themselves, are a closer alliance with better-armed al-Qaeda and other extremist groups, receipt of more sophisticated weaponry from Sunni states in the Persian Gulf region opposed to a U.S. pullback, and adoption of more traditional guerrilla tactics, including sniper and other small-scale attacks on both Syrian and Russian targets,” the Post states.
Trump has long expressed doubts over the so-called rebels. Numerous military experts, including retired Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, have stated that the vast majority of rebel fighters have always been radical extremists.
“Funding these guys, fundamentally, may well help destabilize Assad but when they are done with Assad they are coming back towards us,” Shaffer said on the Alex Jones Show in 2014.
Throughout his campaign, Trump has said the Islamic State, not the Assad regime, would be his primary focus in the region.
“My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal last month.
The president-elect has also discussed assisting both Russia and the Syrian government in battling the terrorist group.
“I think it would be great if we got along with Russia. We could fight ISIS together,” Trump said during an October debate.
Despite countless reports on the failure of the Obama administration to find, vet and train legitimately “moderate” fighters in the region, one U.S. official speaking with the Post argued the opposition has “accomplished many of the goals the U.S. hoped for.”
“They’ve been fighting for years, and they’ve managed to survive,” the official said. “Their opposition to Assad is not going to fade away.”
While the United States claims that more than 50,000 moderates currently occupy Syria, General Lloyd Austin, the commander of U.S. Central Command, admitted last year that only “four or five” had been trained and approved.
The Post also notes that retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, now Trump’s designated White House national security adviser, has argued that the alliance between the rebels and terrorist groups is more substantial than being admitted.
Flynn stated last year during an interview with al-Jazeera that the Obama administration made a “willful decision” to support terrorist groups in the fight against Assad.
Flynn’s comments followed the release of a declassified 2012 Pentagon report that foresaw the rise of an Islamic State due to the president’s policy in the region.
As first reported by writer Nafeez Ahmed, the US ignored the warnings and continued their support of terror groups throughout Syria.
“Despite anticipating that Western, Gulf state and Turkish support for the ‘Syrian opposition’ — which included al-Qaeda in Iraq — could lead to the emergence of an ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the document provides no indication of any decision to reverse the policy of support to the Syrian rebels,” Ahmed notes.
US allies such as Qatar, who was revealed to be supporting the Islamic State in emails published by WikiLeaks, have vowed to continue aiding opposition fighters regardless of Trump’s plans.
“We want to have the U.S. with us, for sure. They have been our historic ally,” Qatar Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Jassim al-Thani recently said. “But if they want to change their minds… we are not going to change our position.”
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