A Stronger Western Effort to Back the Syrian Rebels

(Washington Post) David Ignatius - Western and Arab intelligence services that support Syria's opposition gathered for a two-day strategy meeting in Washington last week that appears to signal a stronger effort to back the rebels. The gathering was attended by spy chiefs from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan. Sources said these countries agreed to coordinate their aid so that it goes directly to moderate fighters rather than to extremists of the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The CIA has organized the training of opposition fighters in Jordan, where the training camps can handle about 250 fighters a month. Over 1,000 fighters have come through this program and Arab countries have urged the U.S. to double this training capacity. The new commander of the Free Syrian Army's supreme military command is Brig. Gen. Abdul-Illah al-Bashir, who defected from the Syrian army last year and is based in Quneitra, on Syria's southern border. He lost a son in fighting against Assad's forces, which gives him credibility among rebels. His deputy will be Col. Haitham Afiseh from Idlib province in the north. U.S. observers credit Afiseh for leading attacks that routed ISIS jihadists from his home town.

2014-02-19 00:00:00

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