More Unintended Consequences When Arming Syrian Rebels

In a recent article for The New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Ali Younes write that Jordanian intelligence operatives have stolen millions of dollars’ worth of American and Saudi weapons, which the CIA  originally sent to arm Syrian rebels opposing President Bashar al-Assad.

According to Mazzetti and Younes, the stolen weapons were resold on the black market, and several reached the hands of a gunman who killed two Americans and three others at a training facility in Amman, Jordan in November 2015.

Mazetti and Younes note that this type of incident “highlights the messy, unplanned consequences of programs to arm and train rebels—the kind of program the C.I.A. and Pentagon have conducted for decades.”  This particular program in Jordan was successful at training thousands of fighters who were initially effective against the Syrian military, but they were later driven back by Russian forces.

While the results of this program have been questionable enough on their own,  Mazzetti and Younes also remind readers about the Pentagon’s even worse program to train rebels to fight against ISIS, which wasted hundreds of millions of dollars training only a handful of fighters.

To ensure decisions truly serve our vital strategic interests, U.S. leaders should carefully consider the difficulties of training unaccountable rebel forces and pursuing political ends, such as regime change in the Middle East. These decisions can carry high fiscal costs for the United States and, even more importantly, truly tragic costs to human life.

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