President Donald J. Trump appears to confirm the existence of a “covert” CIA program aiding Syrian rebels fighting against forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad, prompting a rebuke from Syrian rebels while pleasing the Syrian regime.
In a series of tweets late on Monday, President Trump lashed out at The Washington Post for reporting on his decision to abort the CIA program that included arms and financial support to the Syrian rebels.
Mr. Trump described the CIA aid as “massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments,” claiming that the newspaper had “fabricated the facts” about his decision to halt aid to the Syrian rebels. CNN had also taken its share of Mr. Trump’s wrath.
“So many stories about me in the @washingtonpost are Fake News. They are as bad as ratings challenged @CNN. Lobbyist for Amazon and taxes?” Mr. Trump tweeted.
The CIA funding program was providing assistance to anti-Assad Syrian rebel groups in southern and northern Syria, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA), heavily supported by Turkey and Qatar.
Mr. Trump was referring to a story published by The Post over the weekend, reporting that President Trump had decided to stop the program with his CIA director and national security advisor. Mr. Trump’s decision, according to the report, came before his July 7 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of G20 summit, in Hamburg, Germany.
White House officials have still not denied the report of CIA ending its Syria program.
In Damascus, the Syrian government welcomed Washington’s decision to end the support for Syrian rebels.
“All these steps are the start to solving the Syrian crisis, and without that there is no solution,” Syria’s National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar said in an interview with Reuters.
Mr. Trump’s halting aid to the rebels has been widely depicted as an attempt to improve relationships with Russia. US Special Operations Command head Gen. Raymond Thomas denied allegations in his speech at the Aspen Security Forum on Friday.
“Absolutely not a sop to the Russians,” Gen. Thomas said while commenting on the end of the covert CIA program. “It was based on an assessment of the nature of the program, what we were trying to accomplish, the viability of it going forward. Tough decision.”
CIA declined to comment on the report.
Anna Varfolomeeva contributed to this report from Washington.