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    Move to End CIA Support for Syria Rebels Cuts US Losses - Ex-EU Adviser

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    President Donald Trump’s move to end the CIA training program for Syrian rebels finally cuts US losses and acknowledges the failure of efforts to topple President Bashar Assad, former European Union adviser Paolo von Schirach told Sputnik.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — On Friday, US Special Operations Command head Raymond Thomas said at a security forum that the administration ended the CIA train-and-arm initiative after assessing the nature of the program and its viability in light of US objectives.

    "The chance of overthrowing Assad via military actions is a dream," Schirach said. "US efforts to force regime change in Damascus by supporting the domestic Syrian opposition through military assistance have failed."

    Schirach, who is also the president of the Global Policy Institute and professor of international affairs at BAU University in Washington, said the decision to end the CIA training program marked a belated recognition by US policymakers that they were not going to be able to topple Assad and his government in Damascus, no matter how many weapons and support they funnelled to the rebels.

    Trump’s decision showed US policymakers had abandoned a six year effort by the Obama administration to build up military rebel forces in Syria, Schirach claimed.

    "I call this cutting one's losses and moving on," he said.

    Schirach said some of Trump’s critics claimed that cutting off the rebels had been a major US favor to Russian President Vladimir Putin without getting anything in return.

    "They argue that arming the Syrian rebels was smart because it created a pressure point against the Assad regime that could have been used at a later date as a bargaining chip during negotiations about a future settlement of the conflict in Syria," he said.

    However, Schirach maintained that Trump had scrapped a program that had already clearly failed at enormous cost.

    "While the details about how much money was spent and how effective this operation has been are not publicly available, the truth is that the Syrian opposition aided by the US and several Arab countries was never very effective; and now it has been essentially beaten," Schirach pointed out.

    After the fall of Aleppo, the CIA-backed Syrian rebel groups lost any remaining chance of overthrowing the Damascus regime, or even inflicting serious damages to it, Schirach remarked.

    The decision to end training and support for the Syrian rebel groups was not just a personal call by Trump but represented a major and sustained policy change by the US government, Schirach insisted.

    "There seems to be a new consensus within the US Government that removing Assad from power is no longer a priority. [Previous President Barack] Obama instead repeatedly declared that Assad ‘had to go,’ because of his violations of human rights and other crimes against the Syrian people," he recollected.

    However, current Secretary of State Rex Tilllerson and others actually said publicly that the removal of Assad from power was no longer a precondition for any serious talks about the future of Syria, Schirach recalled.

    "Given all this, continuing a CIA-funded operation aimed at arming a few Syrian rebels who do not have any realistic chances to achieve much against regular pro-Assad forces backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, seems like a waste of time and money," he explained.

    Syrian rebels who were included in the CIA-funded program who had counted on continuing US support would have every right to feel betrayed, Schirach acknowledged.

    "But this would not be the first time in which allies of America have been dropped by Washington, on account of larger strategic considerations," he remarked.

    Trump reportedly decided to halt the training of Syrian rebels about a month ago after a meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. The program originally ramped up in 2015 and was designed to produce a force of more than 5,000 troops to fight the Syrian government.

    Related:

    US Special Ops Confirms CIA Halting Support for Syrian Rebels
    Lavrov Strikes Back at CIA's Pompeo, Questions Legality of US Bases in Syria
    End of CIA Training Program Removes Roadblock to Real Peace in Syria
    Moscow Comments Reports of CIA Halting Syrian Rebels' Training Program
    Tags:
    Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Syria, United States
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