Today the Wall Street Journal has a substantial report on what seems to be a mismanaged and failing effort to arm Syrian opposition forces.Among its findngs:
Entire CIA-backed rebel units, including fighters numbering in the “low hundreds” who went through the training program, have changed sides by joining forces with Islamist brigades, quit the fight or gone missing.
The CIA recently stopped offering help to all but a few trusted commanders in Syria. Much of the U.S.’s focus is shifting to southern Syria, where rebels seem more unified but say they get just 5% to 20% of the arms requested from the CIA.These cutbacks and shortfalls appear to be in response to administration and congressional concerns that the weapons could fall into enemy hands,
Officials defend the decision to keep the arms pipeline small and tightly controlled, citing concerns that weapons could fall into the wrong hands. “This was consistent with the administration’s legal responsibilities and strongly held views in Congress,” a senior administration official says. Despite the controls, some weapons still wound up on the wrong side.And delays have also occurred in an international panel overseeing the effort.
At meetings, the MOM [joint operations center] heard requests for ammunition and then deliberated, often for as long as two weeks. The panel included the CIA and intelligence services from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.The article also claims we didn't pay as much as the bad guys.
Most CIA-backed fighters made $100 to $150 a month. Commanders made slightly more. Islamic State and Nusra often paid twice as much, making it harder for the trusted commanders to retain fighters.The U.S. program has multiple and hard to achieve goals, especially the vetting of "trusted commanders." A recent CRS study details the many conflicting provisions of administration and congressional proposals for the program. No wonder things have gone "awry."