Trump Ends CIA Program Supporting Syrian Rebels

Efficiency, diplomacy, or falling in line Russia?

President Trump has decided to end a program run by the CIA which armed and trained moderate Syrian rebels. The program has been a source of contention with Russia, who saw it as a threat to their interests.

Officials claim this reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia. Reportedly, Trump made the decision to scrap the CIA program nearly a month ago following a meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

Spokesmen for the National Security Council and the CIA declined to comment.

 

While the move will be praised by some, there are those who are skeptical. Current and former officials who support the program cast the move as a major concession.

“We are falling into a Russian trap,” according to Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. The institute focuses on the Syrian resistance. “We are making the moderate resistance more and more vulnerable. . . . We are really cutting them off at the neck.”

However, others said it was recognition of Assad’s entrenched position in Syria.

“It’s probably a nod to reality,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former Obama administration official and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. However, Goldenberg was quick to say that withdrawing all support would be catastrophic for the rebels.

“This is a force that we can’t afford to completely abandon. If they are ending the aid to the rebels altogether, then that is a huge strategic mistake.”

Senior U.S. officials say the covert program will be phased out over a period of months.

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