Confusion as Pentagon Arms Syrian ‘Arab Groups’

Officials Refuse to Say Who They're Actually Arming

After ditching the $500 million “train-and-equip” program, the Obama Administration rapidly started making high-profile pronouncements about new arms shipments to assorted rebel factions. Dubbed “Arab groups” in Pentagon statements, the program is creating a lot of confusion, primarily over who they’re arming.

“Arab groups” aren’t really a specific thing in a largely Arab country like Syria, and while some airdrops were reported in Hasakeh Province, Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions openly talking up terrorist attacks are also claiming stepped up shipments of missiles from the US.

The Pentagon doesn’t seem to be really specific about anything involving this new program. Yesterday, they insisted that the rebels don’t need to be vetted because they’re fighting ISIS, but today they assured al-Jazeera that the unnamed leaders of these unnamed groups were vetted.

But if so, why is the US so desperate to keep these factions a secret? A lot of tiny factions across Syria style themselves as US-backed groups, mostly recipients of CIA weapons in years past, and while a lot of them assumed they’d be the recipients of this major new armament effort. A lot of them don’t seem to be in the mix so far though.

Somewhere along the line, some of those arms are probably going to start flowing toward the Kurdish YPG, and that’s going to start a whole new round of arguments with Turkey, which has repeatedly warned the US against arming the Kurds, even though the YPG is the primary faction in Hasakeh, and fighting ISIS.

In the meantime, however, the US airdrops remain shrouded in mystery, with assurances that whoever the US intended to arm was armed, and expectations that those factions, whoever they are, are going to do something at some point.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.