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Rebels receive training Photo: AFP
Rebels receive training Photo: AFP
 
Obama wants Assad to fall, but not yet Photo: AP
Obama wants Assad to fall, but not yet Photo: AP
 
 

Report: CIA training Syrian rebels

CBS reports: CIA, US Special Forces training rebels in Turkey, Jordan. Meantime, Kerry arrives in Doha for talks, rebels confirm western military aid has begun to flow, in bid to turn tide against Assad

Yitzhak Benhorin
Latest Update: 06.22.13, 19:20 / Israel News

WASHINGTON – The CIA and US army's Special Forces have been training small groups of Syrian rebels in secret bases in Jordan and Turkey since November 2012, CBS has reported Saturday. According to the report, the training focused on training rebels in the usage of anti-tank and anti-aircraft arms donated by Arab states.

 

However, as of yet, Syrian President Bashar Assad and his official state forces have enjoyed complete aerial superiority, which some claim has becoming the watershed for swinging the conflict back in his favor.

 

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Rebels for their part are desperate for serious American aid which would allow them to properly respond to Assad's aerial dominance and technological upper hand which allow the regime, for example, to gather intelligence on rebel forces with the aid of Iranian drones or fight during the night with the aid of night vision, to name a few.

 


אובמה רוצה למנוע השתלטות האיסלמיסטים על סוריה (צילום: רויטרס)

Between rock, hard place, Assad or Islamist (Photo: Reuters)

 

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Qatar Saturday to meet officials from nearly a dozen nations to firm up and coordinate military and humanitarian aid going to the Syrian opposition trying to oust President Bashar Assad.

 

Kerry flew to Doha, the capital of Qatar, Saturday and it is the first stop on his seven-nation trip through the Mideast and Asia. US officials hope the meeting will re-energize a newly expanded Syrian opposition group, which is to elect new leadership in coming days.

 

Despite the recent string of victories for pro-Assad forces, rebels for their part are also not so quick to give up. A senior official with the Free Syrian Army claimed that his organization had already begun to receive arms promised to them by foreign nations, "from now on you'll see us victorious," he promised.

 

During a meeting with the organization's commanders in Ankara, Gen. Salim Idris, the Free Syrian Army's chief commander, claimed they have begun to receive the arms promised to them, but failed to go into detail.

 

Idris's claims coincided with recent reports that rebels have begun to receive serious military aid in the form of anti-tank and possibly anti-aircraft missiles from Gulf states, first and foremost Saudi Arabia.

 

Meanwhile, fears of an escalation in the Syrian conflict have led the White House to leave about 700 combat-ready troops in Jordan after the military exercise which took place this week in the Hashemite Kingdom.

 


כוחות אמריקניים במהלך התרגיל בירדן, השבוע (צילום: AFP)

US troops in Jordan (Photo: AFP)

 

According to a statement made by United States President Barack Obama, per the Jordanian government's request, the troops will remain in Jordanian territory until the security situation will allow their departure. According to the White House statement, the remaining force includes Patriot Missile systems, fighter jets among others.

 

Last week saw the much anticipated announcement by the US that it would take a more proactive stance in the conflict and begin to arm rebels. A decision supposedly taken in wake of confirmed chemical arms usage on Assad's forces part, finally crossing the US's much debated 'red-line'.

 

The White House's decision also came on the same day that former US President Bill Clinton published a critical op-ed slamming the Obama administration for not acting to consolidate and support the Syrian opposition, which seemed to be loosing its footing in the wake of losses to Assad loyalists and Hezbollah fighters in Qusair.

 

In his column in the Washington Post, David Ignatius, considered to be well connected with the current administration, claimed that Obama does indeed want Assad deposed, but not just yet.

 

According to Ignatius, Obama wishes to strengthen moderate opposition forces under the command of Salim Idris and his Free Syrian Army and only then begin negotiations towards an interim government.

 

According to Ignatius, this position stems from fears shared by many in the West that a large portion of rebels are hardliner Islamist supportive of al-Qaeda.

 

The main concern is that western arms would fall into the wrong hands and that Assad's fall would be a recreation of the situation in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. In contrast to Iraq, this time, the Americans want a smooth transition that would include continuity in government and social services the day after Assad's looming fall.

 

According to AFP, despite the reports, Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour denied that the CIA and US Special Forces are training Syrian rebels in his country. "There are no trainings for opposition forces in our territory. We only aid refugees who fled to Jordan," Ensour said at a press conference.

 

 

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First Published: 06.22.13, 09:49

 

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