CIA-Armed ‘Moderates’ in Syria Included al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front

Defected Groups Kept FSA Branding to Keep Weapons Flowing

A new report citing former CIA officers has revealed that the agency was knowingly providing weapons, including tow missiles to fighters that were effectively part of al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, continuing to arm “moderates” so long as they at least nominally kept their moderate names.

The report reveals that the vetting process amounted to little more than checking the names of fighters they were given against outdated terrorist databases, and that often they didn’t even have real names to check in the first place. It was in this way that the “moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA) started getting arms in the first place.

But as the war continued, the FSA fighters were defecting en masse to the Nusra Front. Even being directly affiliated with al-Qaeda’s affiliate didn’t stop the arms flow to these groups, either, so long as they retained their FSA name so the CIA could feign arming “moderates.”

The report concludes that the FSA was quickly becoming a cover name for Nusra, a fact which apparently didn’t phase the CIA, which was just as eager to use this pretense, so long as they were arming a group that was fighting against the Syrian government.

This has been a long-standing issue with the CIA’s operations in Syria, as they were entirely Assad-centric, and dismissive of fighting against ISIS. It quickly put them at cross-purposes with the Pentagon, whose own operations were focused on ISIS, and oftentimes saw the CIA undermining their efforts.

This new understanding of the FSA also explains Friday’s fiasco, in which US special forces were chased out of the Syrian town of al-Rai by US-backed and Turkey-backed FSA fighters threatening to “slaughter” them as infidels. Turkey has long been seen as cozy with Nusra anyhow, and likely didn’t care about the connections, while the FSA fighters, who were fine taking weapons from the CIA, rightly saw the US troops as a different force entirely, and one with a significantly different agenda.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.

  • Jack

    So, let me get this straight ….. the legal figleaf for this whole thing is the AUMF that Congress rubberstamped right after 911. This gave the President broad powers to attack Al-Qaeda, which had just attacked the Twin Towers. Now, it turns out that we are using this same legal figleaf to supply and arm Al-Qaeda. On top of it, the people we hate in the region and want to bomb and attack are the very people who are fighting against Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

    And to think, we sent some of our lower IQ citizens to prison for long sentences for ‘providing support to’ Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

    Vote for Hillary if you support Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

  • The Cult of Michz

    Makes you think this whole war on terror think had been a ruse by the war industry to invade counties at will and assassinate whomever, whenever.