Washington – US President Donald Trump justified on Monday his decision to end the US program of aiding Syria’s rebel factions, saying that it was “massive, dangerous and wasteful,” reported Agence France Presse.
His statements came three days after General Tony Thomas, the head of US special operations, announced that Washington had halted the four-year program that had supported rebels fighting Syrian regime head Bashar Assad.
The Washington Post reported that Trump had made his decision a month ago.
Thomas said that the decision was not taken to placate regime ally Russia in order to reach a settlement with it over the conflict that has been raging for over six years.
Trump echoed these denials, tweeting: “The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad…..”
The missive appeared to be a response to an article by the newspaper published hours earlier and titled “Cooperation with Russia becomes central to Trump strategy in Syria.”
It quoted anonymous officials as saying “the United States and its proxies would concede Assad’s control of most of central and southern Syria” in return for Moscow and its allies steering clear of US coalition operations against the ISIS terrorist group.
Former president Barack Obama approved the rebel aid program in 2013 as various insurgent groups sought external support in a general uprising against the Assad regime.
Thousands of Syrian anti-regime fighters were trained and armed. But the US commitment remained ambiguous amid doubts in some quarters that the rebels could actually manage to depose Assad and as attention turned to the rising power of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Support for the program further eroded last year after the rebels lost the areas they held in the Syrian city of Aleppo under a brutal Russian-backed regime assault.