Conflict & Justice

CIA helping Syrian rebels in fight against Bashar al-Assad's troops, report says

The CIA is helping Syrian opposition fighters by feeding information to select rebels to try to make them more effective against government troops, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

Citing unnamed current and former US officials, the newspaper wrote that the new CIA effort reflected a change in the administration's approach to the Syrian conflict.

In their effort to help secular fighters, the CIA had sent officers to Turkey to vet any rebels slated to receive arms shipments from Gulf allies, the WSJ said.

At the same time, administration officials cited concerns about some weapons going to Islamists, the paper noted, adding that Western nations favor fighters aligned with the Free Syrian Army, which supports the Syrian Opposition Coalition political group.

The White House had also directed the CIA to help the Iraqis counter the flow of Al Qaeda-linked fighters across the border with Syria, the Journal wrote.

Last June, The New York Times reported that CIA officers were operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border would receive arms to fight the Syrian government.

More from GlobalPost: CIA secretly steering arms to Syria opposition

Earlier this month, The Los Angeles Times reported that the CIA was collecting information on Islamic radicals in Syria for possible lethal drone strikes against them at a later stage.

The US runs similar drone programs targeting militants in Pakistan and Yemen.

Citing unnamed current and former US officials, the newspaper said President Barack Obama had not authorized any drone missile strikes in Syria yet, and none were under consideration.

Syrian opposition commanders said the CIA had been working with British, French and Jordanian intelligence services to train rebels in the use of various kinds of weapons, the WSJ said.