The Trump administration has decided to end the CIA’s years-long covert program to arm and train what they call Syrian moderate opposition, militants fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Quoting two unnamed US officials, The Washington Post reported the suspension of the program on Wednesday, while the CIA declined to comment on the topic. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders also declined to comment at the White House briefing.
The CIA program began in 2013 as part of the efforts by the Obama administration to overthrow Assad but produced no tangible results. Another downside of the program is that some armed and trained rebels defected to Daesh and other radical groups.
According to the officials, the shuttering of the program shows Trump’s attempts to bolster closer relations with Russia. “It’s a signal to Putin that the administration wants to improve ties to Russia,” one of the officials said.
The decision to scrap the CIA program was made about a month ago, after an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and before Trump’s July 7 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Germany, according to the officials. They also said that it was not part of US-Russian negotiations on a ceasefire in southwestern Syria.