In a key decision Wednesday, the Trump administration ended a CIA program to train and arm Syrian rebel groups battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Neither the CIA nor the White House commented on reports the four-year-old program to equip so-called Syrian moderates was brought to an end.
Despite Wednesday’s decision, military assistance to Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), will remain intact. Assistance to this group, which operates largely in northern Syria, began in June over the objections of the Turkish government.
Under U.S. policy in Syria, President Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, inaugurated two separate training programs aimed at toppling Assad. One was led by the CIA; the second program was managed by the Pentagon.
Dubbed “Timber Sycamore,” the CIA program halted Wednesday by Trump trained moderate Sunni rebels and relied on Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Turkey for heavy weapons and funding.
A second arrangement administered by the Pentagon, which was later revealed to have spent $500 million, was suspended in 2016 when it was revealed a mere five trainees had completed the program.
Responding to the news after undergoing successful surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain tweeted that the administration’s action is “irresponsible, short-sighted& plays into Russia, Assad’s hands”.
“The administration has yet to articulate its vision for Syria beyond the defeat of ISIL, let alone a comprehensive approach to the Middle East,” he said in statement. “Six months into this administration, there is still no new strategy for victory in Afghanistan either. It is now mid-July, when the administration promised to deliver that strategy to Congress, and we are still waiting.”
According to the Washington Post, the administration made the decision little more than a month ago, prior to Mr. Trump’s first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the annual G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
[Business Insider] [The Independent] [Washington Post] [Photo courtesy Polaris/New York Times]