REYHANLI, Turkey – U.S. army tools and ammunition, despatched to Syria as a part of a failed Obama administration plan to seek out and arm reasonable forces to defeat ISIS, have been as a substitute merely handed over to an Al Qaeda group, in keeping with the person who stated he himself brokered the deal.
“I communicated with Al-Qaeda’s department, Al Nusra, to guard and safely escort me and my troopers for 2 hours from North Aleppo to West Aleppo,” Maj. Anas Ibrahim Obaid, higher recognized on the battlefield as Abu Zayd, instructed Fox Information from his house within the western Aleppo space. “In change, I gave them 5 pickup vehicles and ammunition.”
These vehicles and ammo have been issued to him by america in 2015, a part of a $500 million Division of Protection effort to “practice and equip” a brand new “ideologically reasonable” power to battle ISIS. This system, one in every of not less than two designed to funnel arms to so-called reasonable Syrian rebels, proved to be a spectacular failure for the Obama administration.
Zayd, who stated he defected from the Syrian Military to the opposition in 2012, described a program that was rife with inconsistencies and incompetencies.
He claimed the principle prerequisite for inclusion in this system was proof of affiliation with a gaggle that had fought ISIS, the Islamic State. That was adopted by a number of primary questions, like, “With which faction did you struggle?” and “What do you consider ISIS?”
After present process coaching in Turkey, the primary batch of 54 educated fighters crossed again to Syria in July 2015 – solely to be nearly immediately ambushed by Al Nusra militants. A number of of the lads have been kidnapped, and their U.S.-issued weapons have been stolen.
Zayd stated he was a part of a second group to be despatched into Syria — this time with out correct firepower.
The U.S. trainers “needed us to enter Syria with out weapons due to the ambush, and stated we may get the weapons inside as a substitute. This was loopy,” Zayd recalled. “We refused.”
The weapons difficulty was labored out, and the rebels finally began their journey again to Syria on Sept. 19. However Turkish border guards discovered one thing else of their baggage: Syrian regime flags, fairly than the flags of the opposition group the fighters have been being despatched to help.
Zayd stated fighters charged again to their base in Turkey, demanding solutions. U.S trainers took duty for the “flag mistake,” Zayd stated, and the next day the rebels continued again to Syria.
However morale was already an issue, Zayd stated, and fighters who have been being paid a $250 month-to-month wage by the Protection Division started defecting. His group of 72 shrank to only 25, he stated.
Zayd stated he, too, grew to become shortly fed up with this system and deliberate to return to his hometown in western Aleppo to struggle the Syrian regime.
However getting house entailed transferring by means of Al Nusra territory. That is when he known as the Al Qaeda-affiliated leaders and made the association handy over the 5 U.S-issued vehicles and scores of ammunition, in change without cost passage and an armed escort house.
“The People have been so offended after they discovered, they minimize my wage,” Zayd stated nonchalantly. “However this was our solely choice by means of their territory to get house with out getting killed.”
Zayd stated the Pentagon halted the troubled program a few month after his take care of Al Nusra. “I obtained many messages the People don’t need to take care of me anymore. However they will’t get their weapons again,” he boasted.
Over Skype from his lounge, Zayd confirmed off an assortment of M-16 and M-24 sniper rifles, in addition to ammo, mortar rounds and machine weapons. He claimed most in his arsenal have been U.S.-issued, with extra in a close-by warehouse.
Sources near Zayd instructed Fox Information his American-funded items routinely floor on the black market, and represent one thing of a profitable enterprise. Zayd right now stays a commander for the Free Syrian Military.
A second Obama administration program, “Timber Sycamore,” was began by the CIA in late 2012 with the same goal of arming rebels. This specific operation was energetic alongside the Turkish border to Syria’s north, and a Jordanian crossing within the south, known as the “Southern Entrance.”
However Syrian opposition figures say this program was additionally compromised, with arms falling into the fingers of ISIS or Al Nusra.
This system initially equipped gentle weapons. However because the Syrian civil struggle intensified, the U.S. strengthened its dedication by offering chosen rebels with American “tune-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided” antitank missiles, higher referred to as BGM-71 TOWs.
One opposition group backed by Washington in 2014 to make use of the TOWs was the FSA group Hazem Motion.
“We grew to become optimistic we may overthrow the regime,” Asem Zidan, 27, previously a media activist for the FSA’s Hazem, instructed Fox Information. “And the TOW missiles helped us to forestall the regime pushing ahead for a while … but it surely wasn’t sufficient.”
Zidan stated solely 10 TOWs at a time have been issued, which he stated fell properly wanting what was required to defeat regime forces. And issues solely worsened when Al Nusra began to assault and “steal their weapons.”
One other insurgent fighter, Suheil Alhamoud, 30, who defected from the Syrian Military in March 2012 — the place he was a specialist in missiles – additionally expressed frustration over what he known as inadequate efforts to assist.
After a string of a number of profitable assaults towards ISIS forces, Alhamoud stated that in late November 2014 he acquired a provide of malfunctioning TOWs, believed to have come from surplus Saudi stockpiles. However regardless of having a said vary of greater than two miles, some missiles would journey not more than 150 ft.
“I suffered lots due to that,” Alhamoud contended. “And so the regime and the terrorists superior. We have been instructed extra TOWs would come, but it surely took weeks for them to reach.”
Alhamoud additionally conceded that Al Nusra managed to steal a lot of TOWs, lots of which have since landed on the black market, fetching as much as $30,000 apiece.
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Ibrahim al-Jabawi, who defected from his place as vp of Police within the Syrian province of Homs in 2012 to tackle a task because the Amman-based spokesperson for the Southern Entrance, concurred that “a few of the TOW rockets ended up with Al Nusra.”
In July 2017, citing its ineffectiveness and on suggestion from then-CIA director Mike Pompeo, President Trump ended the faltering Syrian insurgent provide program. Whereas the price of this system and the quantity of arms and assist offered stays largely categorised, it’s estimated that extra that $1 billion was spent on the hassle.
The CIA declined to touch upon this story. A spokesperson for the Protection Division acknowledged that they “clearly confronted challenges” with the now-discontinued train-and-equip effort.