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Trump to end covert US plan to arm Syrian rebels: Report

The programme was ordered by President Barack Obama in 2013 to force Assad out of office, but that goal has become increasingly tenuous after Russian military intervention in 2015.

world Updated: Jul 20, 2017 22:35 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Trump,Syrian rebels,Syria ceasefire
Free Syrian Army fighters pray inside a house in rebel-held Al-Yadudah village, in Deraa Governorate, Syria on Wednesday.(REUTERS)

President Donald Trump has decided to end a covert programme run by the CIA since 2013 to train and arm moderate rebel forces fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, according to a report in the Washington Post.

Russia had long sought this but it was not clear if Moscow had made a specific request to Trump, who, according to the report, took this decision a month ago, ahead of his meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, Germany.

The programme, which will be folded up over next few months, was ordered by President Barack Obama in 2013 to force Assad out of office, but that goal has become increasingly tenuous after Russian military intervention in 2015.

The decision to scrap the programme falls within a larger plan of the Trump administration to work towards a solution in cooperation with Russia. The first step was taken in that direction after the July 7 meeting of the two leaders.

The two countries announced a ceasefire in southwest Syria, where most of the anti-Assad rebels being armed by the CIA were operating, according to the Washington Post.

Five days into that ceasefire, Trump said, “We are working on the second cease-fire in a very rough part of Syria. If we get that and a few more, all of a sudden we are going to have no bullets being fired in Syria.”

The report of the decision drew criticism from some that the US had given in to Russia. “If true – and I hope it’s not – it would be a complete capitulation to Assad, Russia, and Iran,” Republican senator Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter.

First Published: Jul 20, 2017 22:35 IST