The CIA is stockpiling arms in Jordan for US-trained Syrian rebels, which they will use in an offensive against Damascus starting August, according to The Wall Street Journal. Up to hundreds of fighters are to be armed and sent to the battlefield monthly.
The intelligence agency had stored Soviet-made arms at a network of secret warehouses in advance of the Obama administration’s decision to provide military assistance to the militants fighting against the government of Bashar Assad, the newspaper reports. The weapons include anti-tank missiles, which may be handed over to the Syrian rebels.
The CIA was chosen to deliver arms to the Syrian revels to limit public disclosures and restrict oversight to a small group of lawmakers, who would oversee the clandestine operation, the report explains.
Other countries may join the US program for arming the rebels. Washington is in talks with France about pre-positioning European-procured weapons in Jordan. Saudi Arabia is expected to provide some portable anti-aircraft weapons as well, the WSJ says.
The weapons are meant for Syrian rebels trained by US instructors, the report says. The CIA says it has an “elaborate” vetting system, which will supposedly prevent the American-trained and armed fighters from joining jihadist forces among the anti-Assad troops. The agency may co-opt aid from the US special operations forces and similar units in other countries like Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to train the rebels, the report says.
Up to several hundred troops may be sent into Syrian territory every month under the program, the newspaper says, citing diplomatic sources. The rebel troops will be deployed starting early August and will need four to five months before making “a meaningful difference” in the Syrian civil war, unnamed US officials told WSJ.