United States President Donald Trump has decided to roll back the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) program to arm and train the moderate Syrian opposition, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing US officials.
According to the newspaper, the decision was made a month ago after Trump’s talks with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser Herbert Raymond McMaster.
White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday that she cannot confirm the information "at this time."
A CIA spokesperson told Sputnik that the agency declined to comment on the report.
Yezid Sayigh, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, suggested that the decision may be a concession to Russia.
"This [decision] may be a concession to Russia. But it’s unclear whether this decision relates to such groups as Jaish Maghawir al-Thawra [also known as the Army of Revolutionaries, or the Revolutionary Commando Army] in southern Syria that receives US support from Jordan. But this move is unlikely to affect the support for the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] in northern Syria," Sayigh said in an interview with Sputnik.
"In this region, the program was de facto ended in February. Apparently, the US was concerned over the fact that those opposition fighters had ties to more radical Islamist groups," Sayigh said.
The expert pointed out that Turkey’s interests are presented in this region and the change in the US policy may reflect differences between the US and Turkey.
"The fact that Washington has changed its policy towards Syrian opposition groups may reflect its tensions with Ankara. The US and Turkey also have differences on some other issues," Sayigh concluded.
"I would basically like to say that we welcome any steps aimed at defusing the situation and the strengthening of security in the Middle Eastern region," Kozhin told a briefing.
The CIA reportedly maintained its program to provide training and weapons to Syrian opposition fighters since 2012.
In 2014, the US authorized $500 million to train and equip 5,400 moderate Syrian fighters by the end of 2015. The first round of training yielded fewer than 60 fighters, of which only four or five were engaged on the battlefield, according to the Pentagon.