WASHINGTON – The CIA has been feeding information to select rebel fighters in Syria to make them more effective against government troops, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
Citing unnamed current and former U.S. officials, the Journal said the new CIA initiative reflects a change in the approach by the administration of President Barack Obama, which is aiming to strengthen secular rebel fighters.
But the new aid to the rebels doesn’t change the U.S. stance against directly providing the opposition with arms, the paper noted.
The CIA has sent officers to Turkey to help vet rebels who receive arms shipments from gulf allies, but administration officials have cited concerns about some weapons ending up in the hands of Islamist fighters, the report said.
In Iraq, the CIA has been directed by the White House to work with elite counterterrorism units to help Baghdad counter the flow of al-Qaida-linked fighters across the border with Syria, the Journal said.
According to the report, the West favors fighters aligned with the Free Syrian Army, which supports the opposition Syrian National Coalition political group.
Syrian opposition commanders said the CIA had been working with British, French and Jordanian intelligence services to train rebels in the use of various kinds of weapons, the Journal said.
The move comes as Jabhat al-Nusra, the main group with an al-Qaida connection operating in Syria, is deepening its ties to the terrorist organization’s central leadership in Pakistan, it added.