White House officials refused to comment Friday on a Los Angeles Times report that CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons since late last year, saying only that the U.S. had increased its assistance to the rebellion.
The covert U.S. training at bases in Jordan and Turkey began months before PresidentObama approved plans to begin directly arming the opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to U.S. officials and rebel commanders.
“We have stepped up our assistance, but I cannot inventory for you all the elements of that assistance,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. “We have provided and will continue to provide substantial assistance to the Syrian opposition, as well as the Supreme Military Council.”
The Supreme Military Council is the military arm of an umbrella group that represents more moderate rebel factions, including the Free Syrian Army.
The training and Obama’s decision this month to supply arms and ammunition to the rebels have raised hope among the beleaguered opposition that Washington ultimately will provide heavier weapons as well. So far, the rebels say they lack the weapons they need to regain the offensive in Syria’s bitter civil war. – Full Read: LA Times: Update: U.S. training Syrian rebels; White House ‘stepped up assistance’
US troop buildup in Jordan after Turkey shuts US-NATO arms corridor to Syrian rebels
The US decision to upgrade Syrian rebel weaponry has run into a major setback: debkafile reveals that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan phoned President Barack Obama in Berlin Wednesday, June 19, to report his sudden decision to shut down the Turkish corridor for the transfer of US and NATO arms to the Syrian rebels.
Against this background, the US President informed Congress Friday, June 22, that 700 combat-equipped American military personnel would remain in Jordan at the end of a joint US-Jordanian training exercise. They would include crews of two Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries and the logistics, command and communications personnel needed to support those units. The United States is also leaving behind from the war maneuver a squadron of 12 to 24 F-16 fighter jets at Jordan’s request. Some 300 US troops have been in Jordan since last year.
Erdogan’s decision will leave the Syrian rebels fighting in Aleppo virtually high and dry. The fall of Qusayr cut off their supplies of arms from Lebanon. Deliveries through Jordan reach only as far as southern Syria and are almost impossible to move to the north where the rebels and the Hizballah-backed Syrian army are locked in a decisive battle for Aleppo.
The Turkish prime minister told Obama he is afraid of Russian retribution if he continues to let US and NATO weapons through to the Syrian rebels.
Since the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland last week, Moscow has issued almost daily condemnations of the West for arming “terrorists.”
Rebel spokesmen in Aleppo claimed Friday that they now had weapons which they believe “will change the course of the battle on the ground.”
debkafile’s military sources are strongly skeptical of their ability – even after the new deliveries – to stand up to the onslaught on their positions in the embattled town by the combined strength of the Syrian army, Hizballah troops and armed Iraqi Shiites. The prevailing intelligence assessment is that they will be crushed in Aleppo as they were in Al Qusayr.
That battle was lost after 16 days of ferocious combat; Aleppo is expected to fall after 40-60 days of great bloodshed.
The arms the rebels received from US, NATO and European sources were purchased on international markets – not only because they were relatively cheap but because they were mostly of Russian manufacture. The rebels are thus equipped with Russian weapons for fighting the Russian arms used by the Syria army. This made Moscow angrier than ever.
Until now, the Erdogan government was fully supportive of the Syrian opposition, permitting them to establish vital command centers and rear bases on Turkish soil and send supplies across the border to fighting units.
He has now pulled the rug out from under their cause and given Assad a major leg-up .
This about-turn is a strategic earthquake – not just in terms of the Syrian war but also for the United States and, as time goes by, for Israel too. – Debka: US troop buildup in Jordan after Turkey shuts US-NATO arms corridor to Syrian rebels
At least 600 Russians and Europeans fighting alongside Syrian opposition – Putin
Putin reiterated that weapon supplies to the Syrian rebels violate international law, and threaten to further destabilize the war-torn state.
“Why supply weapons to militant forces in Syria when we are not sure of the composition of these groups?” he said, adding that it remains unclear where these arms will end up.
“If the United States … recognizes one of the key Syrian opposition organizations, al-Nusra, as terrorist … how can one deliver arms to those opposition members?” Putin said. “Where will (those weapons) end up? What role will they play?”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has also criticized the supply of arms to the rebels in separate remarks to AP and Bloomberg: “The problem is that the weapons are coming to the region anyway,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
“And if you take, you know, stock of what is being used by the opposition you would find a lot of arms shipped by the West, including the US, to the Gulf countries and to other countries in the region,” he said. “So, this smuggling continues and this is very dangerous. Because the leading opposition force on the ground is very extremist.” – RT: At least 600 Russians and Europeans fighting alongside Syrian opposition – Putin