President Trump is shutting down the CIA’s program to arm and train rebels fighting the Syrian government, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, a victory for Russia, which has called for the move for years.
Officials told the Post that shutting down the program, begun by the Obama administration in 2013, is a sign of Trump’s attempts to work with Russia, which has viewed the U.S. attempts to force out Syrian President Bashar Assad during that country's civil war as an attack on its own interests.
The shuttering of the CIA program does not mark the end of U.S. involvement in Syria — Trump signed off in May on a plan to arm the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish rebel group, using Department of Defense funds.
The Post reports that Trump decided to shut down the CIA program last month after meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin struck a deal for a partial cease-fire during their meeting at the Group of 20 summit earlier this month, set for a region of Syria where rebels supported by the CIA are stationed.
One current official told the Post that the decision is a massive concession to Moscow, saying that “Putin won in Syria.”
Tensions rose between the U.S. and Russia in Syria last month after U.S. forces shot down a Syrian plane. Russia said at the time that it would treat all U.S. planes flying over the country as targets in response.