CIA secretly trains anti-Syria militants in Turkey

CIA secretly trains anti-Syria militants in Turkey
Sat Jun 22, 2013 09:54:57

CIA has been secretly training anti-government militants in Syria for months, a new report shows.

Since the opening of a new US base in the desert in southwest of Jordan in November 2012, the CIA operatives and US special operations troops have covertly trained the militants in groups of 20 to 45 at a time in two-week courses, The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.

The militants receive training with Russian-designed 14.5-millimeter anti-tank rifles, anti-tank missiles, and 23-millimeter anti-aircraft weapons, according to a militant commander in the Syrian province of Dara’a.

“Those from the CIA, we would sit and talk with them during breaks from training and afterward, they would try to get information on the situation inside” Syria, the report quoted the unnamed commander as saying.

The training program has also been conducted in Turkey, the report said.

Yahya Bittar, another militant commander, said the training is conducted by US, Jordanian and French operatives, adding that up to 100 militants have been sent back across the border to Syria after taking the course in Jordan over the past month.

The White House did not comment on the report but its Press Secretary Jay Carney told the US daily that Washington has “provided and will continue to provide substantial assistance to the Syrian opposition, as well as the Supreme Military Council,” referring to an armed group fighting against the Syrian government.

The report comes more than a week after President Barack Obama ordered the CIA to directly provide the militants in Syria with weapons, citing the use of chemical arms by the Syrian government. Damascus has rejected the allegation.

Louay Muqdad, a spokesman for the so-called the Free Syrian Army, said on Friday that they have received new weapons which they claim can change the course of the battle.

“We have begun distributing them on the front lines, they will be in the hands of professional officers,” he added without giving any details about the type or the source of the weapons.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin once again warned the West against sending arms to the militants in Syria, saying the arms may end up in the hands of the “terrorists.”

The US is boosting its military presence in Jordan. The Pentagon on Saturday announced that F-16 fighter jets and a Patriot missile battery would remain behind after having been sent to Jordan for the Eager Lion military exercise.

About 700 combat-ready US troops are also going to stay in Jordan following the training exercise, bringing to 1,000 the total number of American troops in the Arab country, Obama said on Friday in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

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