Iran’s Press TV reports Oct. 3, 2013:
US officials say the CIA is expanding a covert effort to train militants in Syria who have been fighting the Syrian government forces for the past two and a half years.
The CIA’s mission is expected to produce a few hundred trained militants each month, a level that US officials say will do little to bolster militant forces, according to The Washington Post.
American officials are concerned that the militants fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are rapidly losing ground in the country’s unrest, the newspaper said.
The CIA has sent additional paramilitary teams to secret bases in Jordan in recent weeks in an effort to double the number of militants getting CIA training and weapons before being sent back to Syria, officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Post.
The CIA has trained about 1,000 militants this year, according to current and former US officials.
The CIA is “ramping up and expanding its effort,” said a US official familiar with operations in Syria, because it was clear that the militants were “losing, and not only losing tactically but on a more strategic level.”
The CIA training program was secretly authorized by the US President Barack Obama, and is limited in financing, indicating tensions in the Obama’s administration’s strategy on Syria.
On May 7, Russia and the US agreed to convene an international conference on Syria, which will serve as a follow-up to an earlier Geneva meeting held in June 2012.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called on all parties involved in the Syrian crisis to take part in the Geneva-2 conference without any preconditions.
Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to the UN, more than 100,000 people have been killed and a total of 7.8 million of others displaced due to the violence.
The Washington Post article referenced by Press TV is titled “CIA ramping up covert training program for moderate Syrian rebels,” by Greg Miller, Oct. 2, 2013. The article says that the CIA is providing these so-called “moderate Syrian rebels” both “instruction and weapons.”
So who are these “moderate Syrian rebels”? From the WaPo article:
The program is aimed at shoring up the fighting power of units aligned with the Supreme Military Council, an umbrella organization led by a former Syrian general that is the main recipient of U.S. support.
The training is led by small teams of operatives from the CIA’s Special Activities Division, a paramilitary branch that relies heavily on contractors and former members of U.S. Special Operations forces. Officials said the instruction is rudimentary and typically spans four to six weeks. […]
The pace of the CIA program amounts to a trickle into the ranks of opposition fighters, who total about 100,000. U.S. intelligence officials said that as many as 20,000 of those are considered “extremists” with militant Islamist agendas.
Those hard-line factions have drained momentum and support from moderate rebel groups. The most prominent Islamist groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, include fighters who have extensive experience from the war in Iraq, have ties to al-Qaeda and have carried out high-profile strikes against Assad’s government.
Former deputy CIA director Michael J. Morell said in a recent CBS interview that the most effective organizations on the battlefield in Syria are the Islamist factions. “And because they’re so good at fighting the Syrians, some of the moderate members of the opposition joined forces with them,” he said.
Those defections have been compounded by mounting skepticism of U.S. commitment and intentions, officials said. Rebels’ requests for weapons were rebuffed until earlier this year, when Obama allowed the CIA to begin providing arms. But even then, officials said, the deliveries were delayed for months and restricted to light arms, which are already abundant in the conflict.
Rebels were also angered by the U.S. decision not to launch missile strikes against Assad after he was accused of using chemical weapons to kill more than 1,000 people in August in an attack on the outskirts of Damascus. After initially threatening strikes, the Obama administration set those plans aside last month to pursue a potential deal with Russia in which Assad would surrender control of his chemical weapons stockpiles — and probably extend his hold on power.
Islamist factions have taken advantage, luring fighters away with offers of better pay, equipment and results. A spokesman for the ISIS said the group had added 2,000 Syrian recruits and 1,500 foreign fighters over the past two months.
“More and more Muslims in Syria and outside are realizing that we are the only true force able and willing to defend the Syrian people against this monstrous regime without any Western agenda,” said the spokesman, Mohammed al-Libi.
Recruiting efforts by militias working with the CIA have sagged, officials said. […]
The Obama administration has explored the idea of using the U.S. military to expand the training program to what some officials have described as “industrial strength.” But Defense Department officials said there has been no decision to do so and cited significant obstacles.
It is unclear whether Jordan would welcome such a large U.S. military footprint, which would mean converting a covert program into one officially acknowledged by the United States. There are also legal impediments, including a measure known as the Leahy Law that would require a determination that no recipients of U.S. military assistance had committed human rights abuses.