President Trump has decided to halt the CIA's years-long covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Russia had long pushed the United States to end the program, per the AP. The phasing out of the secret program was reported by the Washington Post on Wednesday. Officials told the newspaper that ending the operation reflects Trump's interest in finding ways to work with Russia. The program was a key component begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to relinquish power, but even its supporters have questioned its usefulness since Moscow sent forces to Syria two years later.
Russia long saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. Ending the plan is in part an acknowledgment of the United States' limited ability to remove Assad from power. The White House had previously condemned Assad and just three months ago Trump launched dozens of airstrikes against a Syrian air base after the United States accused the Syrian regime of using chemical weapons on its own people. White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to comment on the report and said she did not know if the move was discussed during a pair of conversations—including one just revealed on Tuesday—that Trump had with Putin at an international summit earlier this month. (Read more Syria stories.)