PoliticsForeign Policy


Trump Is Ending An Obama-Era Program To Arm Syrian Rebels

President Trump is phasing out a covert program to give moderate Syrian rebels weapons.
Posted at 7:30 PM, Jul 19, 2017

President Donald Trump is reportedly ending a covert CIA program to send weapons to certain rebel groups in Syria.

The program began in 2013 under the Obama administration as a way to indirectly fight the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

It's had a rough track record: CIA weapons have ended up on the black market, and the newly-armed rebels have sometimes bolstered more radical groups — or fought with other U.S.-backed rebels.

The Washington Post, which broke the story, noted several officials wanted to shutter the program near the end of President Barack Obama's term. But even the skeptics thought the program could still be useful — as a bargaining chip with Russia.

Russia and the U.S. have been competing for military influence in Syria for years. Russia has been bombing the CIA-backed rebels in earnest, claiming they're targeting the terrorist groups that sometimes ally with those rebels.

The Post reports Trump decided to end the program about a month ago, before his face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit. A new cease-fire in southern Syria was announced after that meeting.

The CIA's program is expected to be phased out over the next few months. This won't affect a separate Department of Defense program to coordinate with other moderate Syrian rebel groups.