CIA-Backed Weapons Program Remains Tabled Despite Growing Violence in Syria

A plan by the Obama administration to provide additional firepower to Syrian units backed by the CIA remains in limbo after the proposal was introduced during a national security meeting with the President. The proposal would give the forces weapons to aid in defending themselves against Russian artillery.

U.S. officials believe that the current administration is skeptical about widening the covert CIA program which over the last three years has trained Syrian fighters and equipped them with weapons. The operation is a core piece of the U.S. strategy to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to abdicate his presidency.

Officials have said that Obama’s reluctance to move forward with the CIA program means that his successor will be tasked with the decision. Critics believe that increasing weapon supplies will escalate the fighting in Syria and have no real impact on improving the situation there. Others say that inaction will likely lead to the fall of Aleppo and “tens of thousands of CIA-backed fighters will search for more-reliable allies.”

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CIA Director John Brennan and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, support the proposal known as “Plan B”, though Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed apprehension at moving forward with it. Carter believes that a “doubling down of the CIA program” would drive up the costs of Moscow’s efforts in the area, thereby straining their finances.

Proponents believe that the CIA effort has accomplished its goal of becoming a threat to Assad and despite Russian military action the Free Syrian Army (FSE) is intact. One U.S. official said that the FSE is the only option the U.S. has of succeeding in its mission. “We and our partners will continue to provide support to the opposition and Syrian civil society in a manner that advances those objectives,” said another senior official.