A ‘spymaster’ for the Free Syria Army has accused the CIA of ignoring pertinent information that could have been used to fight the Islamic State. The spy chief, identified only as ‘M.’ for security reasons, reportedly told French newspaper Le Monde that the United States, which has provided material support to the Syrian rebels, refused to act on intelligence that could have crippled the terrorist organization. M. claims he provided photographs, GPS locations, and more to the CIA, all of which they ignored.
The Free Syrian Army was originally comprised of defecting soldiers from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military. For years, the United States has described the FSA as a ‘moderate’ group while supplying weapons, including anti-tank missiles, to fighters to combat Assad.
According to the Washington Post:
“Much of the CIA’s money goes toward running secret training camps in Jordan, gathering intelligence to help guide the operations of agency-backed militias and managing a sprawling logistics network used to move fighters, ammunition and weapons into the country.”
As ISIS rose to power, moderate rebels were forced to fight two fronts, and the focus shifted from fighting Assad to combating the Islamic State. In that regard, M. claims he and his agents attempted to inform their benefactors at the CIA, but were met with apathy and evasion:
“From the moment Daesh (the Arab acronym for Isil) had 20 members to when it had 20,000, we have shown everything to the Americans. When we asked them what they did with this information, they always gave evasive answers, saying it was up to their decision-makers,” reads the Telegraph’s translation of M’s statements to Le Monde.
Le Monde says it saw M.’s photographs of a training camp in the northern province of Latakia alleged to be visited by foreign ISIS soldiers.
“Naturally I transmitted this to my Western contacts with the GPS coordinates but had not response,” M. reportedly said. “Agents of mine also managed to get hold of phone numbers of Isil officials, serial numbers of satellite equipment and IP addresses. But once again, zero response.”
M. also claims that during the summer of 2014, he and his agents devised an intricate plan to expel the Islamic State from Aleppo, one of the most infamous centers of the Syrian conflict.
“In every village held by Daesh, knew the number of armed men, where their offices and hideouts were. We had located snipers and mines, we knew where the local emir slept, the colour of his car and even the brand. From a tactical and strategic point of view, we were ready,” he said.
However, he asserts the CIA was uninterested and failed to provide sufficient assistance. “They were reluctant to provide us satellite images. They said their planes couldn’t help once the fighting with Isil started. All they offered us was to get rid of a few obstacles before the start of the offensive,” he said.
The plan was reportedly postponed multiple times, ultimately thwarted by an attack on the al-Nusra faction of the FSA, which was set to execute M.’s plan. Al-Nusra has been harshly criticized for its radical, extremist tendencies. According to M., however, they were prepared to fight the Islamic State on the front lines.
Le Monde says it spoke with two other confidential sources who confirmed the documents supplied to the paper by M. Le Monde also reports it spoke to Charles Lister of the Qatar-based Brookings Doha Center, an expert on Syrian jihadists, who reportedly says he was familiar with numerous complaints from rebels who said they received insufficient support from the United States.
The CIA began funnelling weapons to the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups deemed moderate in 2013. The program has been criticized for its reliance on radical Islamist groups to transfer weapons to preferred fighter groups. Further, the FSA has shrunk in size over the years, and it’s possible fighters have defected to more radical groups, like al-Nusra. Last month, Anti-Media reported CIA-backed militias were fighting U.S. allies, highlighting the extreme convolution inherent to the conflict in Syria.
According to the Washington Post, in June of last year, a House committee moved to cut funding for the CIA program amid skepticism about its effectiveness.
“‘Assad is increasingly in danger, and people may be taking bets on how long he can last, but it’s largely not as a result of action by so-called moderates on the ground,’ said a senior Republican aide in Congress, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject,” the Post reported at the time.
That same article, however, also noted the gains the moderate, CIA-backed rebels were reportedly making in recent months. Because of the many factions, interests, and actors in the Syrian conflict, and within the CIA’s weapons program, M.’s reported statements should be taken with a grain of salt. Even so, this is not the first time entities within the United States government have been accused of knowingly allowing the proliferation of the Islamic State, nor the first time schemes to arm rebels have failed to achieve their goals.
In yet another damning example shared with Le Monde, M. claimed he had provided the United States with detailed information on the command structure of the Islamic State in Raqqa, the organization’s declared capital.
“That was a year and a half ago and Raqqa is still the capital of Daesh,” he said.