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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Trump to shutter CIA aid to Syrian rebels fighting Assad

Programme launched under previous president Obama in 2013 will be phased out over a period of months

Support for Syrian rebels by the CIA is to be cut by the Trump administration REUTERS/Alaa al-Faqir
Support for Syrian rebels by the CIA is to be cut by the Trump administration REUTERS/Alaa al-Faqir

The CIA is to shut down its programme to arm and train Syrian rebels, it was reported on Wednesday in the Washington Post.

The agency’s attempts to unseat Syrian president Bashar Al Assad have long been a point of contention with the Russians, who have criticised the Americans for their actions in the country over the last few years.

The newspaper said that closing the program, which was initially commenced by previous president Barack Obama in 2013, showed how the current incumbent in the White House was trying to work with the Russians, who will not countenance a future government of Syria that does not include Assad.

The president took the decision after consulting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser HR McMaster before the July 7 meeting with Putin.

America will continue to retain an involvement in Syria, as earlier this year in May President Trump agreed to arm the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish rebel group, using Department of Defense funds.

US officials said the phasing out would occur over a period of months. Some of the support could also be redirected to other missions, such as fighting ISIL or making sure that the rebels can still defend themselves from attacks.

The decision comes in the aftermath of the G20 summit in Hamburg earlier this month, when Russia and America struck a deal to impose a partial ceasefire on a region of Syria where the rebels supported by the CIA have been active.

According to one Trump administration official reported by the Washington Post, the decision is a massive concession to Moscow: “Putin won in Syria,” the paper was told.

Tensions rose between the U.S. and Russia in Syria last month after U.S. forces shot down a Syrian plane. Russia said at the time that it would treat all U.S. planes flying over the country as targets in response.