Sputnik News, July 21, 2017.
President Donald Trump’s decision to end CIA training for US-backed rebel groups in Syria opens the way for peace at last and humanitarian relief for the suffering people of that country, analysts told Sputnik.
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The move was widely reported in the US media on Wednesday with no denials and has been universally accepted as taking place.
Trump reportedly decided to halt the training about a month ago, after a meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, which preceded his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany earlier this month.
SCRAPPING CIA TRAINING PROGRAM OPENS WAY FOR PEACE DEAL IN SYRIA
The CIA program’s goal was to train at least 5,400 allegedly non-Islamist rebels in an armed force to fight Daesh terror group (outlawed in Russia), while also opposing the legitimate Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.
“This decision opens the door noticeably wider for a negotiated resolution of the dire political conflict (and resulting humanitarian catastrophe) inside Syria,” historian and Middle East analyst Helena Cobban, a leading expert on Syria, said on Thursday.
Continued US support for the rebel groups, some of which were extreme Islamists, had effectively blocked any moves in the past to end the conflict in Syria that has lasted nearly six-and-a-half years and cost more than 600,000 lives, Cobban explained.
“So long as the United States’ covert-action teams were working hand-in-glove with the forces working tirelessly to overthrow the government of Syria, it was hard to envision the United States also sitting down with those political forces inside and outside the country who seek a negotiated resolution,” she said.
However, Trump’s decision to end the CIA support program breathed new life into the Syrian peace process, Cobban observed.
The problems plaguing massive US military aid and training for the rebels greatly embarrassed previous President Barack Obama. Senior US officers have testified to Congress that an undetermined number of such rebels have disappeared with US military equipment and actually joined Islamist forces, including Daesh.
On September 16, 2015, then CENTCOM commanding General Lloyd Austin told the US Senate Armed Services Committee that half a billion dollars of funding for military training of Syrian rebels approved by Congress had only produced only four or five opposition troops in the field by that point.
The CIA training and support program for the rebels failed to accomplish any constructive goals, but only spread and intensified the sufferings of ordinary people in Syria, Cobban recalled.
“The CIA’s aid to the Syrian ‘rebels’ prolonged and deepened the suffering of Syria’s people throughout the whole of the past six years,” she said.
The real purpose of the program was not to defeat Daesh, but to topple the legitimate Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, Cobban stated.
The Obama administration added to the CIA program a “very bright green light… to other non-Syrian actors working to overthrow Syria’s legitimate government, like the Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Turkey… and jihadis from all around the world,” she said.
However, a series of policy shifts by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the clash in the GCC between Qatar and other member states backed by Saudi Arabia looked likely to distract these previous support sources for the Syrian rebels, Cobban observed.
“With the Turkish government now acting a lot more pragmatically than before, and with the ongoing chaos among the GCC countries, it can be hoped that… groups who supported regime change in Syria will now… die of their own accord,” she said.
The end of CIA training for Syrian rebels was also likely to give a boost to cooperation between governments and other forces in the region that genuinely opposed the Islamic State and other Islamist terror groups, Cobban noted.
Rebels seeking regime change in Damascus were now more likely to “be quashed through the cooperation of all the sincerely anti-jihadi forces in the region. There is still a lot of diplomatic work to do, but this decision from Washington makes it seem at least more possible,” she concluded.
CIA PROGRAM SHOWED 5-YEAR RECORD OF CONSISTANT FAILURES
Trump’s decision to terminate the CIA program has been interpreted by analysts as an acknowledgment that the five-year-old program has totally failed to achieve any of its goals, caused damage to US credibility and was not capable of being reformed.
Author and political activist David Swanson said Trump’s decision to end the CIA training program was a long-belated acknowledgment of its complete failure to produce any significant moderate rebel fighting force, while many recruits actually joined the Islamic State or other Islamist groups.
Swanson said the decision to scrap the rebel military training program expressed “a recognition of reality.”
Previous president Barack Obama had been praised as an alleged moderate and technocrat, yet he had ignored his own best intelligence assessments to launch a costly the costly CIA training program after being given due warning that it would not work, Swanson recalled.
“When Obama was president he had the CIA produce a study on whether aiding proxy forces had ever succeeded on its own terms. The answer was no, yet Obama, the supposedly intelligent technocrat went ahead and did exactly what the study had found would not work,” he said.
Trump’s decision to end the CIA training program was rational and sensible, but came as a surprise because US policies in the Middle East and especially on Syria had not been guided by such considerations, Swanson observed.
“Ending it after years of predictable and predicted failure is only hard to explain because we have come to expect completely illogical madness,” he said.
Trump may also have scrapped the program as part of some quid pro quo arrangement he had negotiated with Putin at their G20 meeting, Swanson noted.
The decision to end the CIA training could indicate “some deal struck between Trump and Putin, but since neither of them is likely to tell us, we are left to speculate,” he said.
Although Trump had ordered the end of the training program, it remained to be seen whether he could ensure that the US armed forces and the CIA obeyed his orders and actually enforced the decision, Swanson cautioned.
“The decision is a good one on its own terms if it’s real. But what goes with it remains to be seen — including whether the US military and CIA actually comply with it,” he warned.
Swanson assessed that the results of the CIA training program had been entirely disastrous.
It had only produced “massive death and suffering, militarization of a region, fueling of hatred and hostility and terrorism for years to come,” he concluded.
The CIA reportedly maintained its program to provide weapons to Syrian opposition fighters since 2012. However, the private intelligence firm Soufran Group noted in a report on Thursday that the training program was ineffective and problematic since its launch.