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U.S. Aid for Syrian Opposition Frozen following Extremists’ Attack | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Free Syrian army fighters gesture after they took control of Tal al-Zaatar in the province of Daraa, Syria August 13, 2015. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir

Beirut – Amman – Well-informed sources in the Syrian armed opposition said that U.S. military aid, backed by the CIA, intended for opposition factions in northwest Syria has been halted, since it came under major extremist attack last month.

Reuters quoted two U.S. officials familiar with the CIA-led program as saying that the military assistance, which was expected to include salaries, training, ammunition and in some cases guided anti-tank missiles, was put on hold in response to extremist attacks, and had nothing to do with U.S. President Donald Trump taking office in January.

Syrian opposition officials said that no official explanation had been given for the move this month following the assault, though several said they believed the main objective was to prevent arms and cash falling into militants’ hands. But they said they expected the aid freeze to be temporary, Reuters reported.

“The reality is that you have changes in the area, and these changes inevitably have repercussions,” said an official with one of the affected opposition groups, as quoted by the agency.

He added that no military assistance could “enter at present until matters are organized.”

“There is a new arrangement but nothing has crystallized yet,” the official stated.

Reuters said that the support funneled to the armed opposition has included contributions from Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – states that have opposed Syrian Head of Regime Bashar al-Assad.

The CIA declined to comment on the reported freeze, the agency said.

A Qatari official stated that his government had nothing to say on the matter. Turkish officials said only they could not discuss “operational details”, according to Reuters.

A Free Syrian Army official quoted by the agency said he did not expect the rebels to be abandoned as they represent the best hope for blocking a further expansion of extremists’ influence in Syria, and to fight back against the growing role of Iran there.