Syrian Militant Reveals How US Weapons Made Their Way to Al-Qaeda
REUTERS / Alaa Al-FaqirMiddle East10:43 16.05.2018(updated 10:44 16.05.2018) Get short URL
A member of a Syrian anti-government militant group and former participant of a clandestine US effort to arm rebels in Syria has revealed how weapons supplied by the United States to the so called “moderate opposition” forces were handed over to a local branch of al-Qaeda.
“I communicated with al-Qaeda’s branch, al-Nusra*, to protect and safely escort me and my soldiers for two hours from North Aleppo to West Aleppo. In exchange, I gave them five pickup trucks and ammunition,” Free Syrian Army commander Anas Ibrahim Obaid, also known as Abu Zayd, told Fox News.
According to Zayd, he was the head of a militant group that was trained and armed by the United States in Turkey in 2015 and then deployed to Syria.
Initially his US handlers wanted to send Zayd and his men into Syria unarmed, promising to provide them with weapons on site, as the previous group of some 54 militants had been intercepted by al-Nusra terrorists shortly after entering Syrian territory and robbed of all its US-issued weapons.
After Zayd’s militants managed to persuade their US handlers to arm them, they were then stopped by Turkish border guards who found that the group was carrying Syrian flags instead of rebel flags.
READ MORE: Syrian Rebels Plead With the US to Supply More Weapons Via CIA
The US handlers took responsibility for the “flag mistake” and the group eventually managed to cross into Syria, but the emerging morale problems caused many members to defect, leaving Zayd with only 25 militants instead of the initial 72.
This development prompted Zayd to decide to cut his ties with the program and return to his hometown in western Aleppo, and as he had to cross through al-Nusra-controlled territory, he opted to parlay with the terrorist group and give them weapons in exchange for safe passage.
“The Americans were so angry when they found out, they cut my salary. But this was our only option through their territory to get home without getting killed,” Zayd said.
He also added that the Pentagon shut down the whole program about a month after that deal, adding however that “the Americans… can’t get their weapons back.”
Fox News also reports, citing its sources that Zayd still controls a sizeable cache of “American-funded” weapons which “routinely surface on the black market, and constitute something of a lucrative business.”
READ MORE: US Weapons Went From Syrian Rebels to Daesh in Less than Two Months — Study
From 2013 to mid-2017, the US supplied weapons and training to Syrian rebel groups via the covert CIA program “Timber Sycamore.” US President Donald Trump announced the end of the program in July.
In 2015, the US admitted that a large proportion of the weaponry originally intended for the “moderate” rebels eventually found its way into the hands of terrorist groups.