President Donald Trump has ended the covert CIA program to arm Syrian rebels, which had the aim of bringing down the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Obama administration initially began the program in 2013 in a move to topple Assad, but a strong military showing from both Russia and Iran to back waning Syrian regime forces has embarrassed minimal, limited U.S. efforts, The Washington Post reports.
U.S. officials who spoke to WaPo stated that the move is consistent with Trump’s desire to seek better relations with Russia, adding that Trump came to a decision on ending the CIA program about a month ago. Jordan, the location where some of the Syrian rebels received training, has backed the move to kill the program.
One current official told WaPo that Trump’s decision essentially means that “Putin won in Syria.”
However, to a certain extent, the program was crippled from the start, as the White House during the Obama administration pushed for a stalemate outcome among the warring factions in Syria, in order to induce a political settlement. As such, the CIA was only allowed to provide rebels with enough support, so that they could to fight without winning — but also without losing.
The program will apparently be eliminated over the course of several months.
Trump met with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster before attending the G20 meeting in Germany on July 7, where Trump spoke closely with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on the side.
Officials noted that Trump’s decision to end the disastrous, costly CIA program was not a condition of the new ceasefire deal in southwest Syria between the U.S., Russia and Jordan, which came out of the G20 meeting.
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