US President Barack Obama had authorized a covert CIA program to arm foreign-backed militants in Syria in a bid to achieve advance on the ground against the government forces.
Wall Street Journal quoted diplomats and US officials as saying that the Central Intelligence Agency has begun moving weapons to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses and plans to start arming small groups of “vetted” militants.
Under the CIA program the U.S., Saudi Arabia and key allies would provide both light arms and some heavier weapons to “moderate” militants loyal to Gen. Salim Idris, the top commander of Syria militants backed by the West.
The diplomats and the US officials said that Washington plans to provide training, small arms, ammunition, and possibly certain types of antitank missiles.
Saudi Arabia and other countries plan to provide antiaircraft weapons on a small scale to ensure their use is closely monitored, according to the officials.
The buildup will be gradual, officials acknowledge. U.S. and Saudi officials believe it will take months of arming and training before there are enough moderate fighters on the battlefield to make a meaningful difference on the ground against Syrian government.
Obama’s decision follows urgent appeals by Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other allies for the US administration to take a more hands-on role, reported the Wall Street Journal.
The effort is designed to strengthen “moderate” armed groups, giving them more clout than the extremist militants, and eventually to shift the momentum of the war in the militants’ favor after months of gains by the Syrian Army, officials said.