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Sources: Obama administration ordered CIA training for Syrian rebels

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — The United States has expanded support for Sunni rebels
in Syria.

Western diplomatic sources asserted that the administration of President
Barack Obama ordered an expansion of pro-rebel operations against the regime
of Syrian President Bashar Assad. They said the administration has directed
the CIA to train Syrian rebels in neighboring Jordan as well as increase
monitoring of suspected Al Qaida-aligned militias.

Syrian rebels claim that hundreds of their fighters are being given sophisticated-weapons training organized and authorized by the U.S. at a camp in Jordan.

Syrian rebels claim their fighters are being given sophisticated weapons training organized and authorized by the U.S. at a camp in Jordan.

“Scores of U.S. military advisers in Jordan are training the rebels in
advanced infantry tactics,” a diplomatic source said.

The sources said the training and weapons have been financed by Qatar
and Saudi Arabia. They said the goal by the United States and several of its NATO allies was to form several battalions of rebel fighters capable of
countering the Syrian Army.

On March 15, the State Department refused to elaborate on a spate of
reports in the U.S. and European media of American training of the rebels. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stressed that all U.S. aid to the rebels were non-lethal.

“There are a number of countries that have made clear that they are
providing military support,” Ms. Nuland said. “They will speak for
themselves. I don’t have anything for you on these training reports. We have
made clear that our support for the Syrian Opposition Coalition and for the
Supreme Military Command is all on the non-lethal side.”

Rebel sources reported the completion of training of at least 300 Syrian
rebels in Jordan. They said the U.S.-sponsored course, which included
instruction of anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles, took up to one month
and was comprised of 50 rebels.

“This is a sensitive matter as you know, but yes the American army and
intelligence are training some of the rebels,” a senior rebel operative told
the Reuters news agency.

At the same time, the CIA has intensified monitoring of Al Qaida-aligned
rebel militias. The Los Angeles Times said the CIA could eventually target
Al Qaida fighters from Iraq and Hizbullah soldiers from Lebanon.

“The targeting officers focusing on Syria are based at CIA headquarters
in Langley, Va., officials said,” the newspaper said on March 15. “The
agency has not deployed many American operatives into the war zone, but it
works closely with Saudi, Jordanian and other regional spy services active
there. CIA officers meet with Syrian rebel leaders in Turkey and Jordan,
current and former officials say.”

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