CIA Study Demonstrates Obama's Plan to Arm Syrian Islamists Will Backfire

A still-classified study by the Central Intelligence Agency shows that covertly arming and training rebels rarely works. This is creating some doubt over whether or not the U.S. should do the same for Syrian rebels.

According to a story in the New York Times, the report is one of several CIA studies commissioned in 2012 and 2013, during the time the Obama administration was debating the Syrian civil war and figured that many past attempts by the agency to arm foreign forces covertly had minimal impact on the long-term outcome of the conflict. According to the report, they were even less effective when the militias fought without any direct American ground support.

"The findings of the study, described in recent weeks by current and former American government officials, were presented in the White House Situation Room and led to deep skepticism among some senior Obama administration officials about the wisdom of arming and training members of a fractured Syrian opposition," wrote the New York Times.

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Despite this, in April 2013, Obama had the CIA begin to train rebels in Jordan at a base and even more recently decided to expand this training mission in Saudi Arabia to train "vetted" rebels to fight ISIS. The Obama administration aimed to train about 5,000 rebel troops per year.

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In an interview with The New Yorker published this year, Obama alluded to the study:  "Very early in this process, I actually asked the CIA to analyze examples of America financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn't come up with much."

Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said that "without characterizing any specific intelligence products, the president was referring to the fact that providing money or arms alone to an opposition movement is far from a guarantee of success."

"We have been very clear about that from the outset as we have articulated our strategy in Syria," Meehan said. "That is why our support to the moderate Syrian opposition has been deliberate, targeted and, most importantly, one element of a multifaceted strategy to create the conditions for a political solution to the conflict."

Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch, said that the scheme of arming rebels is "just wrong" and it's a strategy that won't work. He noted that an "external support for insurgents typically makes conflicts longer and bloodier." has reported extensively that US intelligence on the ground in Syria have been supporting al-Qaeda-linked militants for years in a proxy war to overthrow the Assad regime.


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