Video posted online Monday shows the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), using U.S.-supplied TOW missiles in its ongoing campaign against Assad regime forces in the northern province of Idlib. The video was published by Ebaa News, with claims that the target was a group of Syrian soldiers:
HTS hit a group of regime soldiers in the abandoned battalion base in E. #Idlib with a TOW ATGM https://t.co/7NzaMrVogl pic.twitter.com/IoL5Lh3jsF— Noor Nahas (@NoorNahas1) February 25, 2019
The incident took place in Abu Duhur, and the video claims that eight soldiers were killed. The missile appears to be a BGM-71D/E TOW of the variety that the CIA had provided to "vetted" Syrian groups prior to July 2017.
The spillage of weapons provided by the CIA and the Pentagon to so-called "moderate" rebel forces in Syria, only to fall into the hands of terrorist groups like HTS and ISIS, was perhaps the most predictable outcome of the civil war. One of the first actions taken by the Trump administration two years ago was to halt the CIA weapons program, which prompted many of the U.S.-backed groups to flock to al-Qaeda. The CIA program supporting the Syrian "rebels" was shut down entirelyin July 2017. When President Trump shut down the program, both the Washington Post and the New York Times claimed that the move would aid Russia:
Trump ends the CIA's covert program of arming anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move likely to please Russia https://t.co/wvguaf8GvQ— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) July 19, 2017
Trump ends covert aid to Syrian rebels who are trying to topple Assad, a decision bound to be welcomed by Russia https://t.co/KtDhu9oMr6— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 20, 2017
Now, it seems clear that the ultimate beneficiaries of the CIA weapons program lamented by the American media were al-Qaeda and ISIS.
As I have reported extensively here at PJ Media since 2014, weapons provided by the U.S. to Syrian groups have repeatedly fallen into the hands of terrorist groups operating in the area.
Last August, I reported that the USAID inspector general had reported to Congress that food intended for starving civilians in northern Syria had been diverted by a USAID contractor -- Catholic Relief Services -- to HTS fighters. The State Department, the sponsor of USAID, designated HTS a terror organization in May 2018:
In January 2017, al-Nusrah Front launched the creation of HTS as a vehicle to advance its position in the Syrian uprising and to further its own goals as an al-Qa'ida affiliate. Since January 2017, the group has continued to operate through HTS in pursuit of these objectives.
The spillage of U.S. weapons was not limited to Syria.
A December 2017 report by Conflict Armament Research (CAR) found, after an extensive three-year research program of weapons recovered in Syria and Iraq, that weapons supplied by the U.S. regularly ended up in the hands of ISIS. One instance documented by CAR was a Bulgarian anti-tank missile tube discovered by Iraqi police that had been used in Ramadi by ISIS on February 9, 2016. A trace on the lot number markings on the missile tube revealed it had been exported by the U.S. Army less than two month earlier -- on December 12, 2015. The weapon had been provided to a "vetted" Syrian group, Jaysh al-Nasr:
One might think that weapons exported to the U.S. Army being used two months later by ISIS in Iraq would be the subject of extensive congressional investigations. But there have been no such investigations or inquiries, since (as I reported in November 2014) both GOP congressional leaders and the Obama administration were equally complicit in the disastrous support for Syrian groups. In fact, no one in Congress batted an eye when ISIS took over large swathes of Syria and Iraq, capturing 2,300 U.S.-provided Humvees from the Iraqi Army, in addition to 40 M1A1 tanks, 74,000 machine guns, and 52 M198 Howitzer mobile gun systems.
I previously reported that one of the last actions of the Obama administration, just hours before Donald Trump's inauguration, was to bomb an al-Qaeda training camp in Syria. The camp included trainers from a U.S. "vetted moderate" Syrian group that had received TOW missiles through the CIA program, and continued to use them just weeks before they were targeted by President Obama.
As a whole, the Washington, D.C. think-tank community and the establishment media got practically everything wrong in Syria, with the seemingly singular exceptions of Bill Roggio and Tom Joscelyn of the Long War Journal. Those of us who called out against the false claims -- peddled by proven fraudsters like John McCain adviser Liz O'Bagy -- that most of the "rebels" in Syria were democracy-loving moderates were drowned out and ignored. The continued use of U.S.-supplied weapons by terrorist groups in Syria is a direct legacy of the policies of the D.C. SmartSet™ and the chickenhawk media.
Perhaps it's long overdue to find new foreign policy thinking before these same actors push us into the next misadventure?
Patrick Poole is a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.