The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has commenced operations to help arm Syrian rebels battling the forces of that country’s presidnet, Bashar al-Assad, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday night.
According to diplomats and U.S. officials briefed on the plans, the agency is moving weapons to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses and plans to start arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month.
The shipments are part of a push that will involve related training and parallel deliveries from European and Arab allies in hopes of an August surge on the part of the rebels, the WSJ reported.
The CIA is expected to spend up to three weeks moving the weapons to Jordan, and another two weeks vetting and training an initial group of fighters.
France is considering pre-positioning European-procured weapons in Jordan, and Saudi Arabia is expected to provide shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles to a small number of handpicked fighters, as few as 20 at first, officials and diplomats told the WSJ. The U.S. would monitor this effort, too, to try to reduce the risk that the antiaircraft missiles could fall into the hands of terrorists.
Under the current plan, up to a few hundred fighters will enter Syria under the program each month, starting in August, diplomats briefed on CIA plans told the WSJ.
U.S. and Saudi officials believe it will take four to five months before the program will provide effective results in combating Bashar al-Assad’s forces.