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CIA halts support for Syria rebels

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US Special Operations Command has confirmed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) will stop arming and training Syrian rebel factions opposed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Washington Post published a story on Wednesday, July 19, where they claimed that anonymous US government officials had told them that Trump intended to put a stop to the program. At the time, Washington officials refused to comment.

The CIA’s covert program to arm and train rebels to fight Assad’s government was the primary means by which the United States opposed the Syrian president. As such, many have labeled the rumored end to the program an admission by the Trump White House that regime change in Syria is no longer feasible.

This contradicts statements from American leaders such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, both of whom have laid out the removal of Assad as a key US objective in Syria. Tillerson said that the US saw “no long-term role for the Assad family or the Assad regime” earlier in July.

In 2015, the Post reported that the CIA program had a budget of around $1 billion and was meant to produce a thousands-strong militia opposed to Assad.

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