Why the U.S. Owns the Rise of Islamic State and the Syria Disaster
By November 2012, al-Qaida’s Syrian franchise, al-Nusra Front, had 6,000 to 10,000 troops—mostly foreign fighters—under its command and was regarded as the most disciplined and effective fighting force in the field. The CIA’s Gulf allies armed brigades that had allied themselves with al-Nusra—or were ready to do so. A Qatari intelligence officer is said to have declared, “I will send weapons to al-Qaeda if it will help” topple Assad.
The #CIA officials overseeing the covert operation knew very well what their Sunni allies were doing. After the U.S. shipments from Benghazi stopped in September 2012 because of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post there, a CIA analysis reminded President Obama that the covert operation in Afghanistan had ended up creating a Frankenstein monster. Even the now-famous account in Hillary Clinton’s 2014 memoirs about Obama rejecting a proposal in late 2012 from CIA Director Petraeus for arming and training Syrian rebels does not hide the fact that everyone was well aware of the danger that arms sent to “moderates” would end up in the hands of terrorists.
Despite this, after rejecting Petraeus’ plan in 2012, Obama approved the covert training of “moderate” Syrian rebels in April 2013. As the Pentagon has been forced to acknowledge in recent weeks, that program has been a complete fiasco, as the units either joined al-Nusra or were attacked by al-Nusra. Meanwhile, as Vice President Joe Biden pointed out in October 2014, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were pouring “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons” into Syria that were ending up in the hands of the jihadists.