gareth takes as long as it takes to explain things, more or less as they were before daesh

How Pindostan Armed Terrorists in Syria
Gareth Porter, AmConMag, Jun 22 2017

Three-term Congress crittur Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any Pindosi assistance to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as to any organization working directly with them. Equally important, it would prohibit Pindosi military sales and other forms of military cooperation with other countries that provide arms or financing to those terrorists and their collaborators. Gabbard’s “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” challenges for the first time in Congress a policy toward the conflict in the Syrian civil war that should have set off alarm bells long ago. In 2012-13 the Obama administration helped its Sunni allies (the Turks, Toads & Thanis, as it was then – RB) provide arms to Syrian and non-Syrian armed groups to force Assad out of power. And in 2013 the administration began to provide arms to what the CIA judged to be “relatively moderate” anti-Assad groups, meaning they incorporated various degrees of Islamic extremism. That policy, ostensibly aimed at helping replace the Assad regime with a more democratic alternative, has actually helped build up Jabhat al-Nusra into the dominant threat to Assad. The supporters of this arms-supply policy believe it is necessary as pushback against Iranian influence in Syria. But that argument skirts the real issue raised by the policy’s history.

The Obama administration’s Syria policy effectively sold out the Pindosi interest that was supposed to be the touchstone of the GWOT: namely, the eradication of AQ and its terrorist affiliates. Pindostan has instead subordinated that interest in counter-terrorism to the interests of its Sunni allies. In doing so it has helped create a new terrorist threat in the heart of the Middle East. The policy of arming military groups committed to overthrowing Assad began in Sep 2011, when Obama was pressed by his Sunni allies (as before – RB) to supply heavy weapons to a military opposition to Assad they were determined to establish. They wanted Pindostan to provide anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels. Obama refused to provide arms to the opposition, but he agreed to provide covert logistical help in carrying out a campaign of military assistance to arm opposition groups. CIA involvement in the arming of anti-Assad forces began with arranging for the shipment of weapons from the stocks of the Gaddafi regime that had been stored in Benghazi. CIA-controlled firms shipped the weapons from the military port of Benghazi to two small ports in Syria using former military personnel to manage the logistics, as Sy Hersh detailed in 2014 (as Sibel Edmonds already reported in Nov 2011 – RB). The funding for the program came mainly from the Toads.

A declassified Oct 2012 DIA report revealed that the shipment in late Aug 2012 had included 500 sniper rifles & 100 RPGs, along with 300 RPG rounds and 400 howitzers. Each arms shipment encompassed as many as ten shipping containers, each of which held about 48,000 lb of cargo. That suggests a total payload of up to 250 tons of weapons per shipment. Even if the CIA had organized only one shipment per month, the arms shipments would have totaled 2,750 tons of arms bound ultimately for Syria from Oct 2011 through Aug 2012. More likely it was a multiple of that figure. The CIA’s covert arms shipments from Libya came to an abrupt halt in Sep 2012 when Libyan militants attacked and burned the embassy annex in Benghazi that had been used to support the operation. By then, however, a much larger channel for arming anti-government forces was opening up. The CIA put the Toads in touch with a senior Croatian official who had offered to sell large quantities of arms left over from the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. And the CIA helped them shop for weapons from arms dealers and governments in several other former Soviet bloc countries. Flush with weapons acquired from both the CIA Libya program and from the Croatians, the Toads & Thanis dramatically increased the number of flights by military cargo planes to Turkey in Dec 2012 and continued that intensive pace for the next two and a half months. The NYT reported a total 160 such flights through mid-March 2013. The most common cargo plane in use in the Gulf, the Ilyushin IL-76, can carry roughly 50 tons of cargo on a flight, which would indicate that as much as 8,000 tons of weapons poured across the Turkish border into Syria just in late 2012 and in 2013.

One Pindosi official called the new level of arms deliveries to Syrian rebels a “cataract of weaponry.” And a year-long investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project revealed that the Toads were intent on building up a powerful conventional army in Syria. The “end-use certificate” for weapons purchased from an arms company in Belgrade in May 2013 includes 500 Soviet-designed PG-7VR rocket launchers that can penetrate even heavily-armored tanks, along with two million rounds; 50 Konkurs anti-tank missile launchers and 500 missiles, 50 anti-aircraft guns mounted on armored vehicles, 10,000 fragmentation rounds for OG-7 rocket launchers capable of piercing heavy body armor; four truck-mounted BM-21 GRAD multiple rocket launchers, each of which fires 40 rockets at a time with a range of 12 to 19 miles, along with 20,000 GRAD rockets. The end user document for another Toad order from the same Serbian company listed 300 tanks, 2,000 RPG launchers, and 16,500 other rocket launchers, one million rounds for ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns, and 315 million cartridges for various other guns. Those two purchases were only a fraction of the totality of the arms obtained by the Toads over the next few years from eight Balkan nations. Investigators found that the Toads made their biggest arms deals with former Soviet bloc states in 2015, and that the weapons included many that had just come off factory production lines. Nearly 40% of the arms the Toads purchased from those countries, moreover, still had not been delivered by early 2017. So the Toads had already contracted for enough weaponry to keep a large-scale conventional war in Syria going for several more years.

By far the most consequential single arms purchase by the Toads was not from the Balkans, however, but from Pindostan. It was the Dec 2013 sale of 15,000 TOW anti-tank missiles to the Toads at a cost of about $1b, the result of Obama’s decision earlier that year to reverse his ban on lethal assistance to anti-Assad armed groups. The Toads had agreed, moreover, that those anti-tank missiles would be doled out to Syrian groups only at Pindosi discretion. The TOW missiles began to arrive in Syria in 2014 and soon had a major impact on the military balance. This flood of weapons into Syria, along with the entry of 20,000 foreign fighters into the country, primarily through Turkey, largely defined the nature of the conflict. These armaments helped make Nusra, now renamed Tahrir al-Sham, and its close allies by far the most powerful anti-Assad forces in Syria, , and gave rise to the Islamic State. By late 2012, it became clear to Pindo boxtops that the largest share of the arms that began flowing into Syria early in the year were going to the rapidly growing AQ presence in the country. In Oct 2012, Pindo boxtops acknowledged off the record for the first time to the NYT that  “most” of the arms that had been shipped to armed opposition groups in Syria with Pindo logistical assistance during the previous year had gone to “hardline Islamic Jihadis,” obviously Nusra.

Nusra Front and its allies became the main recipients of the weapons because the Turks, Toads & Thanis wanted the arms to go to the military units that were most successful in attacking government targets. And by the summer of 2012, Nusra, buttressed by the thousands of foreign Jihadis pouring into the country across the Turkish border, was already taking the lead in attacks on the Syrian government in coordination with FSA brigades. In Nov-Dec 2012, Nusra began establishing formal “joint operations rooms” with those calling themselves FSA on several battlefronts, as Charles Lister chronicles in his book The Syrian Jihad<a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=B3z-sgEACAAJ. One such commander favored by Washington was Col Abd’ul-Jabbar al-Oqaidi, a former Syrian army officer who headed something called the Aleppo Revolutionary Military Council. Ambassador Robert Ford, who continued to hold that position even after he had been withdrawn from Syria, publicly visited Oqaidi in May 2013 to express Pindo support for him and the FSA. But Oqaidi and his troops were junior partners in a coalition in Aleppo in which Nusra was by far the strongest element. That reality is clearly reflected in a video in which Oqaidi describes his good relations with officials of the “Islamic State” and is shown joining the main Jihadi commander in the Aleppo region celebrating the capture of the Syrian government’s Menagh Air Base in Sep 2013. By early 2013, in fact, the FSA, which had never actually been a military organization with any troops, had ceased to have any real significance in the Syria conflict. New anti-Assad armed groups had stopped using the name even as a “brand” to identify themselves, as a leading specialist on the conflict observed.

So, when weapons from Turkey arrived at the various battlefronts, it was understood by all the non-Jihadi groups that they would be shared with Nusra and its close allies. A report by McClatchy in early 2013 from a town in north central Syria showed how the military arrangements between Nusra and those brigades calling themselves FSA governed the distribution of weapons. One of those units, the Victory Brigade, had participated in a “joint operations room” with Nusra’s most important military ally, Ahrar al-Sham, in a successful attack on a strategic town a few weeks earlier. A visiting reporter watched that brigade and Ahrar al-Sham show off new sophisticated weapons, which included Russian-made grenade launchers. When asked if the Victory Brigade had shared its new weapons with Ahrar al-Sham, the latter’s spokesman responded:

Of course they share their weapons with us. We fight together.

The Turks & Thanis consciously chose Nusra and its closest ally, Ahrar al-Sham, as the recipients of weapons systems. In late 2013 and early 2014, several truckloads of arms bound for the province of Hatay, just south of the Turkish border, were intercepted by Turkish police. They had Turkish intelligence personnel on board, according to later Turkish police court testimony. The province was controlled by Ahrar al-Sham. In fact Turkey soon began to treat Ahrar al-Sham as its primary client in Syria, according to Faysal Itani of the Atlantic Council. A Qatari intelligence operative who had been involved in shipping arms to extremist groups in Libya was a key figure in directing the flow of arms from Turkey into Syria. An Arab intelligence source familiar with the discussions among the external suppliers near the Syrian border in Turkey during those years told David Ignatius that when one of the participants warned that the outside powers were building up the Jihadis while the non-Islamist groups were withering away, the Qatari operative responded:

I will send weapons to Nusra if it will help.

The Qataris did funnel arms to both Nusra and Ahrar al Sham, according to a Middle Eastern diplomatic source. The Obama NSC staff proposed in 2013 that Pindostan signal its displeasure with Qatar over its arming of extremists in both Syria and Libya by withdrawing a squadron of fighter planes from the airbase at al-Udeid. The Pentagon vetoed that mild form of pressure to protect its access to its base in Qatar. Obama himself confronted Erdogan over his government’s support for the Jihadis at a private White House dinner in May 2013, as recounted by Hersh, who quotes Obama as saying to Erdogan:

We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.

The administration addressed Turkey’s cooperation with Nusra publicly only in late 2014, and only fleetingly. Shortly after leaving Ankara, Francis Ricciardone, ambassador to Turkey from 2011 through mid-2014, told the Daily Telegraph:

They worked with groups, frankly, for a period, including al Nusra.

The closest Faschingstein came to a public reprimand of its allies over the arming of terrorists in Syria was when VP Joe Sixpack criticized their role in Oct 2014. In impromptu remarks at Harvard University Kennedy School, Biden complained:

Our biggest problem is our allies. The forces we supplied with arms were Nusra and AQ and the extremist elements of Jihadis coming from other parts of the world.

Biden quickly apologized for the remarks, explaining that he didn’t mean that allies had deliberately helped the Jihadis. But Ambassador Ford confirmed his complaint, telling BBC:

What Biden said about the allies aggravating the problem of extremism is true.

In Jun 2013, Obama approved the first direct lethal military aid to rebel brigades that had been vetted by the CIA. By spring 2014, the Pindo-made BGM-71E anti-tank missiles from the 15,000 transferred to the Toads began to appear in the hands of selected anti-Assad groups. The CIA imposed the condition that the group receiving them would not cooperate with Nusra or its allies. That condition implied that Faschingstein was supplying military groups that were strong enough to maintain their independence from Nusra. But the groups on the CIA’s list of vetted “relatively moderate” armed groups were all highly vulnerable to takeover by the al Qaeda affiliate. In Nov 2014, Nusra struck the two strongest CIA-supported armed groups, Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front on successive days and seized their heavy weapons, including both TOW anti-tank missiles and GRAD rockets. In early Mar 2015, the Harakat Hazm Aleppo branch dissolved itself, and Nusra promptly showed off photos of the TOW missiles and other equipment they had captured from it. And in Mar 2016, Nusra attacked the headquarters of the 13th Division in north-western Idlib province and seized all of its TOW missiles. Later that month, Nusra released a video of its troops using the TOW missiles it had captured.

But that wasn’t the only way for Nusra to benefit from the CIA’s largesse. Along with its close ally Ahrar al-Sham, the terrorist organization began planning for a campaign to take complete control of Idlib province in the winter of 2014-15. Abandoning any pretense of distance from AQ, the Turks, Toads & Thanis worked with Nusra on the creation of a new military formation for Idlib called the “Army of Conquest.” The Toads & Thanis provided more weapons for the campaign, while the Turks facilitated their passage. On Mar 28, just four days after launching the campaign, the Army of Conquest successfully gained control of Idlib City. The non-Jihadi armed groups getting advanced weapons from the CIA assistance were not part of the initial assault on Idlib City. After the capture of Idlib, the Pindo-led operations room for Syria in southern Turkey signaled to the CIA-supported groups in Idlib that they could now participate in the campaign to consolidate control over the rest of the province. According to Lister, the British researcher on Jihadis in Syria who maintains contacts with both jihadist and other armed groups, recipients of CIA weapons, such as the Fursan al-Haq brigade and Division 13, did join the Idlib campaign alongside Nusra without any move by the CIA to cut them off.

As the Idlib offensive began, the CIA-supported groups were getting TOW missiles in larger numbers, and they now used them with great effectiveness against the SAA tanks. That was the beginning of a new phase of the war, in which Pindo policy was to support an alliance between “relatively moderate” groups and Nusra. The new alliance was carried over to Aleppo, where Jihadi groups close to Nusra formed a new command called Fateh Halab with nine armed groups in Aleppo Province which were getting CIA assistance, but could claim that they weren’t cooperating with Nusra because it was not officially on the list of participants in the command. But as the report on the new command clearly implied, this was merely a way of allowing the CIA to continue providing weapons to its clients, despite their de facto alliance with AQ. The significance of all this is clear. By helping its Sunni allies provide weapons to Nusra and its allies, and by funneling into the war zone sophisticated weapons that were bound to fall into Nusra hands and strengthen their overall military position, Pindo policy has been largely responsible for having extended AQ’s power across a significant part of Syrian territory. The CIA and the Pentagon appear to be ready to tolerate such a betrayal of Pindostan’s stated counter-terrorism mission. Unless either Congress or the White House confronts that betrayal explicitly, as Tulsi Gabbard’s legislation would force them to do, Pindo policy will continue to be complicit in the consolidation of power by AQ in Syria, even if once Daesh is defeated there.

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