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CIA: When We Arm Rebels, It Almost Never Works

Obama asked for review when deciding on Syria
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2014 2:25 PM CDT
CIA: When We Arm Rebels, It Almost Never Works
An anti-government fighter aims his weapon during a battle with Syrian troops in Aleppo on Oct. 3, 2014.   (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center AMC)

When President Obama was trying to decide whether to arm rebels fighting the Syrian government, he asked the CIA to examine its long track record on such things. The review's conclusion? It's usually a waste of time and money—and sometimes only makes matters worse, reports the New York Times. The review looked back over the agency's 67-year history and found that time and time again—from the Bay of Pigs, to the Sandinistas, to Somali warlords—providing arms to insurgent forces rarely had any significant effect on how things turned out.

That proved especially true if the US provided arms without having American personnel on the ground to provide guidance, as is the case with Syria. One notable exception: The CIA provided arms and training to Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and the rebels eventually drove the Soviets out. However, intelligence officers from Pakistan were on the ground helping the Afghan fighters. President Obama decided last month to provide limited assistance to Syrian rebels fighting ISIS, prompting a blogger at Firedog Lake to wonder, "What’s the point of commissioning a study just to ignore it?" (More CIA stories.)

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