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CIA Boosting Covert Arms Shipments to Syria: NYT Report

3,500 tons of military equipment coordinated by US, report says

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Confirming reports that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is aiding Syrian rebels in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, new evidence has surfaced that several nations, including Turkey, have been working with the CIA over the past year to dramatically increase military aid to Syrian rebels, the New York Times reports Monday.

Free Syrian Army rebels fighting against Assad militias on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Maraat al-Numan, Idlib, Syria (FreedomHouse via Flickr / Creative Commons License) Referring to air traffic data, interviews with anonymous U.S. officials, and rebel commanders, the Times reports that the CIA has been helping coordinate massive arms shipments to groups within the Free Syrian Army, which have included more than than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at the Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

"A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment," Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told the Times.

Fast paced weapons transfers reportedly began over a year ago, in early 2012.

"The intensity and frequency of these flights," were "suggestive of a well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation," Griffiths added.

In a more overt show of support for Syrian rebels, over the weekend Secretary of State John Kerry pledged an additional 60 million dollars in direct aid to the rebels, marking the first time Washington will directly supply rebel forces, Inter Press Service reports.

“Who are those good rebels we want to arm?” asked Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. “The interventionists seem to take for granted that we know them well. The fact is, the interventionists themselves and the U.S. government don’t know squat about Syria and know even less squat about these rebels.”

Gelb continues:

There is one path to sensible strategy and to staying out of trouble. It is for America’s leaders in Congress, the media, and, above all, the administration to learn the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam and get themselves to satisfactorily ask and reasonably answer the tough questions before we selflessly, inadvertently, and foolishly find ourselves in another war.

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