Donald Trump has decided to halt the CIA’s covert programme to equip and train moderate rebels fighting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, in a move likely to be welcomed by Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
The CIA programme began in 2013 as part of Barack Obama’s support for the overthrow of Assad but met with little success, two officials told Reuters. Some armed and trained rebels defected to Islamic State and other radical groups.
One of the officials was quoted as saying the US is not making a major concession, given Assad’s continued grip on power, but “it’s a signal to Putin that the administration wants to improve ties to Russia”.
Along with Iran, Moscow has played a critical part in shoring up Assad during the the six-year civil war.
The decision was made with national security adviser HR McMaster and CIA director Mike Pompeo after they consulted with lower ranking officials, and before Trump’s 7 July meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Germany, Reuters reported. It was not part of US-Russian negotiations on a limited ceasefire in south-west Syria the two leaders agreed to at the summit, the officials said. theguardian.com