Syrian rebels say they are already being trained by the CIA

The issue of giving aid to the Syrian rebels has been widely debated with some concerned that weapons and training will end up in the hands of Islamists who have embedded themselves among the opposition.

By Aileen Graef

ALEPPO, Syria, May 28 (UPI) -- Just as U.S. President Barack Obama called for support to aid Syria during a speech Wednesday, the Syrian rebels claim they are already being trained.

Obama said in a foreign policy speech at West Point that he is calling for support to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.


"I am calling on Congress to support a new Counter-Terrorism Partnerships Fund of up to $5 billion, which will allow us to train, build capacity, and facilitate partner countries on the front lines," said Obama, speaking of missions on the Middle East and Africa.

"A critical focus of this effort will be the ongoing crisis in Syria. As frustrating as it is, there are no easy answers -- no military solution that can eliminate the terrible suffering anytime soon. As president, I made a decision that we should not put American troops into the middle of this increasingly sectarian civil war, and I believe that is the right decision. But that does not mean we shouldn't help the Syrian people stand up against a dictator who bombs and starves his people. And in helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own future, we also push back against the growing number of extremists who find safe-haven in the chaos."

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The Syrian rebels may be two steps ahead of Obama's vague statements. In the Frontline documentary produced by Jamie Doran, which was released online Tuesday, called Syria: Arming the Rebels, the Syrian opposition claims it has already received training from the CIA. The opposition members said they were taken to Qatar by a group of Americans who taught them basic military training and outfitted them with military gear.

"They trained us to ambush regime or enemy vehicles and cut off the road," said a 21-year-old rebel identified only as Hussein. "They also trained us how to attack a vehicle, raid it, retrieve information or weapons and munitions and how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush."

Doran said in an interview with HuffPost Live that he did not think the "empty rhetoric" in Obama's speech would sit well with the rebels. He said though the opposition has been training for about 10 months, they have yet to be armed with the much-wanted anti-aircraft missiles. They believe this is crucial to fight al-Assad's air strikes.

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There is a concern in the U.S. about who they arm and train as radical Islamist have woven themselves into the rebel groups. Doran said the U.S. has a "black and white" list which is used to choose moderates to safely arm and train.


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