Some Syria rebels de­fect to gov­ern­ment forces

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - BASSEM MROUE

BEIRUT — A small num­ber of U.S.-backed rebels have de­fected and joined gov­ern­ment forces in the south of Syria, days af­ter the U.S. an­nounced an end to a CIA pro­gram that backed op­po­si­tion fight­ers, Syr­ian op­po­si­tion ac­tivists said Sat­ur­day.

The de­fec­tion of at least four rebels came af­ter The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported that the White House de­cided to halt the CIA sup­ply-and-equip pro­gram for Syr­ian rebels.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump es­sen­tially con­firmed the ex­is­tence of the pro­gram and its can­cel­la­tion Mon­day night when he lashed out at the Post. The pres­i­dent tweeted that the news­pa­per “fab­ri­cated the facts on my end­ing mas­sive, dan­ger­ous, and waste­ful pay­ments to Syr­ian rebels fight­ing [Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar] As­sad.”

The de­fec­tions also came as Col. Ryan Dil­lon, the spokesman for the U.S.-led coali­tion fight­ing the Is­lamic State group, told CNN last week that “the coali­tion sup­ports only those forces com­mit­ted to fight­ing” the Is­lamic State group.

The U.S. has been mainly back­ing the Kur­dish-led Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces, which have been among the most ef­fec­tive in fight­ing the Is­lamic State in Syria. Syr­ian fight­ers are cur­rently try­ing to cap­ture the north­ern city of Raqqa, the de­clared cap­i­tal of the ex­trem­ists, un­der the cover of airstrikes by the U.S.led coali­tion.

The chief of the Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, Rami Ab­dur­rah­man, said four mem­bers of the Rev­o­lu­tion Com­mando Army de­fected Thurs­day.

Ah­mad al-Masalmeh, an op­po­si­tion ac­tivist based in south­ern Syria, and an­other ac­tivist with wide knowl­edge about U.S.-backed rebels con­firmed the de­fec­tions on Sat­ur­day.

“Some rebel groups were not ac­tive and did not go into bat­tle, but they were still get­ting as­sis­tance,” al-Masalmeh said. He added that the four de­fected with their weapons and joined gov­ern­ment forces.

There was no im­me­di­ate com­ment from Syr­ian au­thor­i­ties or U.S. of­fi­cials about the re­ports of de­fec­tion.

Last month, Syr­ian troops and their Iran-backed al­lies cir­cled around U.S.-backed rebels and reached the bor­der with Iraq. The move dealt a blow to the de­clared U.S. mis­sion to de­feat the Is­lamic State in the desert re­gion.

Ab­dur­rah­man said four oth­ers de­fected and joined the Is­lamic State, but no other ac­tivists con­firmed the claim.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.