Syria war: Trump ‘ends CIA arms programme for rebels’

A rebel fighter stands amid the rubble of destroyed buildings in a rebel-held area of Deraa, in southern Syria, on 14 March 2017Image copyright
AFP

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Donald Trump had suggested before he took office which he might end support for the rebels

US President Donald Trump has ended the CIA’s clandestine programme to provide weapons along with supplies to Syrian rebel groups, officials have said.

The programme began in 2013 as Mr Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, decided to put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to stand down.

The decision to halt which was made almost a month ago, by which time the flow of arms had already slowed significantly.

The officials said the move was part of an effort to improve ties with Russia.

Russia’s military support has helped Mr Assad hold on to power during the six-year civil war which has left more than 300,000 people dead along with displaced 11 million others.

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The Washington Post newspaper was the first to report the end of the CIA weapons programme on Wednesday night.

Mr Trump made his decision after a meeting inside the Oval Office with National Security Adviser H R McMaster along with CIA Director Mike Pompeo along with before he held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Germany on 7 July, according to the Post.

Two days after the summit, a truce brokered by the US along with Russia took effect in three southern Syrian provinces. however the end of the weapons programme was reportedly not a condition of the negotiations.

Image copyright
EPA

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Mr Trump decided to end the covert programme before meeting Vladimir Putin in Germany

US officials told Reuters news agency there had long been doubts about the programme’s effectiveness. Despite a lengthy vetting process, some rebels had defected to so-called Islamic State (can be) along with additional jihadist groups, they said.

The CIA-backed groups have also been targeted repeatedly by Russian air strikes, which began in September 2015.

One official said Mr Trump’s decision was not a major concession to Russia given Mr Assad’s grip on power, adding: “which’s a signal to Putin which the administration wants to improve ties.”

however another called the decision “momentous”, telling the Post: “Putin won in Syria.”

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

Russia’s air power has helped Bashar al-Assad stay in power during the civil war

A separate US military programme to train, arm along with provide air support to an alliance of Kurdish along with Arab fighters battling so-called Islamic State will continue.

The White House along with the CIA declined to comment on the reports.

Mr Trump had suggested before he took office in January which he might end support for the rebels along with prioritise the fight against can be in eastern along with northern Syria.

In late March, the White House said which had abandoned the goal of forcing Mr Assad to stand aside, explaining which “there can be a political reality which we have to accept”.

however the next month, after the US accused the Syrian government of a deadly chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town, Mr Trump ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base along with his secretary of state said Mr Assad’s actions suggested “there would likely be no role for him to govern the Syrian people”.

Mr Trump’s decision to agree to the Russian demand to end the weapons programme comes as he faces intense scrutiny by Congress along that has a special counsel investigating alleged Russian interference inside the 2016 US presidential election.

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