President Donald Trump appears to have confirmed ending a CIA program to arm and train rebels battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
In a post on Twitter criticizing a Washington Post report, the president said late July 14, ” The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad.”
Trump didn’t specify what was wrong with report by the newspaper, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos.
The Washington Post had reported Trump decided to end the aid almost a month ago after meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in the Oval Office. It was before the G20 Summit in Germany when met on July 7 with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian government, which backs the Assad regime, has opposed the program, which was begun by President Barack Obama in 2013.
Officials said the CIA program will likely be phased out “over a period of months.” US ally Jordan, which has hosted training sites for the Syrian rebels, backs the move, according to the newspaper report.
The White House did not dispute the story last week.
A spokesman for the CIA declined to comment on Trump’s tweet.
On July 21, the leader of US special forces appeared to confirm the end of the program.
“At least from what I know about that program and the decision to end it, absolutely not a sop to the Russians,” Army Gen. Raymond Thomas said at a national security forum in Colorado. “It was, I think, based on an assessment of the nature of the program, what we’re trying to accomplish, the viability going forward.”
He said it was a “tough, tough decision.”
“It is so much more complex than even I can describe, that’s not necessarily an organization that I’ve been affiliated with but a sister, parallel activity that had a tough, and some would argue, impossible mission based on the approach we took.”
After his speech, he told reporters he hadn’t confirmed anything and was referring only to “public reporting.”