An expensive programme co-sponsored by the CIA and Saudi Arabia to supply weapons and train anti-Assad rebels derails after corrupt Jordanian officials sell weapons on the black market. Some might have ended in Jihadi hands; others might have been used to kill Americans on at least one occasion.
Amman (AsiaNews) – Americans have been killed on at least one occasion with weapons supplied by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to anti-Assad Syrian rebel groups after they ended up on the black market.
A joint investigation by Al Jazeera and the New York Times found that the US spy agency, in co-operation with Saudi Arabia, supplied weapons and ammunitions to Syrian rebels via Jordan that were eventually sold to arms traffickers by corrupt Jordanian intelligence officials.
The two media outlets spoke to US and Jordanian officials on condition of anonymity who confirmed what went wrong with the policy of arming and training rebels against the Syrian regime.
It is unclear where the weapons, which include Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, have ended up, but what is certain is that many rebel groups were interested in them. Reportedly, some ended up with Jihadi groups.
Local criminal networks and rural Jordanian tribes support the arms bazaars to increase their arsenals, and smugglers buy the weapons to distribute in neighbouring countries like Syria and Iraq.
The CIA and Saudi Arabia are the secret programme’s main backers. Both have invested heavily in the groups opposed to Assad, and the US agency has done a lot to train rebel forces.
Insiders said that thousands of rebels have been trained and that they had made considerable advances against the Syrian army until they were forced back by the Russian initiative backing Assad. The latter not only hit Jihadi groups (like Daesh and al Nusra) but also stopped the other anti-Assad groups.
The programme is based in Jordan because of its proximity to the Syrian combat zone and the CIA and Arab agencies relied the Jordan security services.
US and Jordanian officials are currently vetting the secret CIA programme. However, the investigation remains classified in the United States and a government secret in Jordan.
The programme itself is separate from the once administered Pentagon’s scheme that was set up to train rebels to combat Islamic State fighters, rather than the Syrian Army.
The budget for the programme remains classified, but its biggest contributors are reportedly the United States and Saudi Arabia, along with other US allies in the region.
Some of the stolen weapons appear to have been used to kill Americans. In one incident, a Jordanian officer shot dead two US government security contractors, a South African trainer and two Jordanians at a US-funded police training facility near Amman before being killed in a shootout.
The training facility was set up on the outskirts of the capital, Amman, after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq to help rebuild the shattered country’s postwar security forces and to train Palestinian Authority police officers.
The weapons used in the shooting had originally arrived in Jordan for the Syrian rebel training programme, but the CIA could not be immediately reached for comment.
Jordanian officers involved in the plan “reaped a windfall” from sale of weapons, using the money to buy iPhones, SUVs and other luxury items.
Husam Abdallat, a high-ranking advisor to past Jordanian premiers, conceded that there are some corrupt officers, but insisted that “The majority of its officers are patriotic and proud Jordanians who are the country’s first line of defense.”