Efforts to find a viable partner force to help America combat first the Assad regime, and later ISIS, have been underway for several years now. Unfortunately, most of those efforts have focused around the so-called Free Syrian Army. America jumped in the Syrian Civil War way too late in the game. By the time the CIA got involved, most of the moderates had already defected to groups like Al-Nusra and ISIS. The latter two groups were well funded by fat cats in the Gulf States while the FSA was hanging by a thread until it’s dying ghost was resuscitated with Western shock therapy.
Even the vetting process was a mess, as turf battles erupted between the CIA and JSOC’s Intelligence Support Activity contractors who were collecting intelligence to vet those in the Free Syrian Army.
A number of different initiatives currently exist to arm, train, and deploy “friendly” FSA forces in Syria. One of them is now known as the GCC program and will be written about here in brief due to its abject failure, and the fact that is just a cause du jour for the Obama administration to point to and say they are actually doing something to fight ISIS. Despite the vetting, the FSA is hardly a moderate or reliable partner force. Those on the ground in Syria have told SOFREP about how they often partner with their so-called enemies in battles where they have something to gain. In other words, the FSA will marry up with Al-Nusra to fight ISIS one day and hang out with ISIS to fight back Assad another day.
While these sorts of Machiavellian politics seem curious if not ridiculous to Western observers, these alliances of convenience are quite common in the Middle East.
The GCC program is run by the Central Intelligence Agency and involves shuttling FSA fighters from places like Aleppo to an airfield in Turkey. From Turkey, they are then flown to a third country where they are trained in everything from rifle marksmanship to anti-tank weapons by U.S. Special Operations personnel who are “sheep dipped” under the auspices of the CIA. Such an arrangement helps exploit the famous Title 10/Title 50 loophole and is as old as time.
One can look at the Lodge Act Green Berets, for example. After the conclusion of the second world war, large numbers of Germans, Ukrainians, and other Europeans were brought into U.S. Special Forces, many of them used for covert operations sponsored by the CIA. Likewise, active-duty Special Forces soldiers were placed under the auspices of the CIA and sent to Central America during the 1980s. This way, the president could make claims like, “We have no boots on the ground” in XYZ country. A bit like the claims that President Obama makes today.
But the GCC program is also hopelessly compromised. The supposedly vetted FSA members sent for CIA training include very large numbers of double agents working for the Assad regime. When the FSA members return to Syria after receiving their training, they are quickly rounded up, ambushed, or outright exterminated. Why this particular program continues to be funded only makes sense so that the White House can tell Congress that they are taking decisive actions against ISIS—even if those actions are ineffective. And believe me, the FSA is very ineffective.
They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Perhaps it is time for the White House, the Pentagon, and the CIA to start doing something different. Of course, this assumes that they actually want different results. Why would they unless there is a major policy shift?
(Featured image courtesy of alalam.ir)