US President Donald Trump
has seemingly backed a decision to halt support for foreign-backed militants in Syria, inadvertently confirming the existence of a covert CIA program to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Trump attacked The Washington Post in connection with a story about the termination of US efforts to aid so-called moderate rebels fighting Assad.
Trump said the newspaper had “fabricated the facts” about his decision to end the “massive, dangerous, and wasteful” CIA program.
“The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Trump accused The Post
of reporting “fake news
” and suggested that the newspaper was being used as a “lobbyist weapon” to help Amazon avoid taxes. Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos purchased The Post
The newspaper reported last week that Trump had decided to end a covert CIA program that has been arming, training and funding anti-Damascus militants since 2013.
US officials said that ending the CIA operation reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia. Moscow had long pushed Washington to end the program, which was started by the administration of former President Barack Obama to overthrow Assad.
Fighters from the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces prepare for an assault on the Daesh-held northern Syrian city of Raqqah on December 10, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
However, the CIA effort had failed to achieve its goals and some US lawmakers had proposed cutting its budget. By some estimates, the CIA trained some 10,000 militants.
Some reports suggest that the US switched off the aid program amid Syrian army advances, which have effectively dashed any hopes of foreign-backed militants managing to depose President Assad.
Despite halting the CIA program, the US is still militarily involved in Syria. In May, Trump authorized arming the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces — a Kurdish militant group — using Department of Defense funds.