Green Beret’s “Blow the Whistle” on White House – “They have us Training ISIS, Al-Qaida Terrorists!”
President Barack Obama is engaged in Felonious conduct, mis-using the US Military to provide training, equipment and logistical support to ISIS, Al-Qaida and other Terrorists in Syria, in violation of Title 18, United States Code 2339A and 2339B. These are “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” under American law and are Impeachable Offenses.
“Nobody believes in it. You’re like, ‘Fuck this,’” a former Green Beret says of America’s covert and clandestine programs to train and arm Syrian militias. “Everyone on the ground knows they are jihadis. No one on the ground believes in this mission or this effort, and they know they are just training the next generation of jihadis, so they are sabotaging it by saying, ‘Fuck it, who cares?’”
“I don’t want to be responsible for Nusra guys saying they were trained by Americans,” the Green Beret added. A second Special Forces soldier commented that one Syrian militia they had trained recently crossed the border from Jordan on what had been pitched as a large-scale shaping operation that would change the course of the war. Watching the battle on a monitor while a drone flew overhead, “We literally watched them, with 30 guys in their force, run away from three or four ISIS guys.”
Another militia commander came back to Jordan to be debriefed by CIA case officers stationed at Damascus X, the exiled CIA station now located in Amman, Jordan, since departing Syria’s capital after the civil war began. The Syrian proxy broke down saying that he might as well join ISIS-something the case officer had to talk him out of.
But perhaps this was a step in the right direction from a the recent past, when the commander of the now-defunct Syrian Revolutionary Front came in for a debriefing, telling his CIA handler that a helicopter was shot down and destroyed some of his equipment but he also claimed that he had an expensive suit onboard the aircraft that the CIA also needed to replace.
While the press has reported extensively on the over 100 armed groups within Syria vying for control, and the occasional report comes out about U.S. special operations troops in Syria and wasteful spending on covert action programs, the wider story about the U.S. Special Forces arming Syrian anti-ISIS forces while the CIA conducts a parallel program to arm anti-Assad regime forces has yet to be told-until now. It is a story of fraud, waste, and abuse, as well as bureaucratic infighting and a disgusting excess, which has only contributed to perpetuating the Syrian conflict.
The CIA underestimates the threat
After the 2009 withdrawal of the U.S. military from Iraq, the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center’s presence also became a pale shadow of what it had once been during the heyday of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the height of the war, the CIA could deploy targeting officers to Iraq and assign them regionally, so a targeting officer would work Mosul and focus on the leadership elements of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI, which later became ISIS), but several years after the withdrawal, the CIA was unable to tap into U.S. special operations units as a force multiplier.
In 2011 and 2012, Delta Force would deploy a single operator to Iraq as a counterterrorism liaison, but the CIA’s chief of station (CoS) in Baghdad made it clear that Delta was not welcome in Iraq. However, U.S. Army Special Forces were able to deploy by working for the State Department and training Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF). In the years leading up to the rise of ISIS, the commander’s in-extremis force, a specialized counterterrorist element in each Special Forces group, would deploy in small numbers in an advisory capacity. Meanwhile, the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center Iraq (CTC/I) was mostly focused on combating Shia militias.
CTC/I become CTC/SI, recognizing the transnational threat of ISIS, which now sprawled across two countries. Although some believed that CTC/SI had to switch its focus to targeting mid-level Baath party leaders within ISIS who guided the group on strategy, tactics, and propaganda, the leadership of CTC/SI and the newly formed Syrian Task Force consisted of only 10 targeting officers who were constantly forced to shift gears as the agency’s senior leadership would have them focus on ISIS, al-Nusra, the Khorosan Group, Shia militias, and Ahrar al-Sham.
Targeting the Khorosan Group was one of the CIA’s early successes in the Syrian Civil War. Tracking signals intelligence (SIGINT), the CIA was able to positively ID senior al-Qaeda leaders from those who formed the nucleus of Khorosan. Intercepting their cell phone conversations, the CIA targeted the group, eventually wiping them off the face of the earth with airstrikes. However, CTC “didn’t even track ISIS worth a damn,” a CIA officer said.
Amazingly, ISIS remained in the background, regarded by CIA leadership as little more than another insurgent group. The director of CTC, who had once been chief of station in Baghdad, did not care about Iraq one way or the other according to multiple sources in CTC who spoke to SOFREP confidentially. Since this was the party line held by the CTC director, it filtered down through the lower ranks in the CIA. The Syria Task Force was focused on Khorosan and Nusra, while Baghdad Station continued to focus on Shia militias and local car bombings. In Erbil, the CIA’s chief of base told a member of the Syria Task Force, “I don’t know why they keep sending you guys [targeting officers]. Nobody gives a shit about counterterrorism in Iraq.”
Lingering in the background was ISIS, a force of 500 to 1,000 fighters that no one took seriously. All of that changed in 2014, when ISIS spilled across the border from Syria, massacred the Yazidi ethnic minority in Sinjar-turning hundreds of girls and women into sex slaves-before moving on and capturing the major city of Mosul in northern Iraq. For a moment, it looked like ISIS was going to overrun Erbil before taking on Baghdad. Then, Jihadi John started executing hostages.
British citizen Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed Jihadi John, appeared in a series of publicly released execution videos. Delta Force launched an attempted hostage rescue mission with Jordanian counterparts to rescue two journalists being held by ISIS, John Sotloff and James Foley. Despite the sizable firefight they engaged in while on target in Syria, the two American journalists had been moved elsewhere.
Jihadi John began executing hostages, demanding that America cease its airstrikes.
That August, Jihadi John, wearing his black balaclava, forced Foley to read an anti-American statement, then beheaded him with a knife and threatened to do the same to Sotloff if the United States did not cease its intervention in Iraq. In September, another video emerged in which Jihadi John beheaded Sotloff. The brutal murders of two captured American journalists shocked the world, particularly the horrified American public. ISIS was now on the front pages of major newspapers, drawing the attention of policymakers and a public demanding that something be done.
ISIS was now on the CIA’s radar. CTC targeted the organization, but not often enough to have any tangible effect on the battlespace. Toward the end of 2014, the CIA had less than 20 targeting officers and analysts dedicated to fighting ISIS. As of early 2016, the situation had improved little. According to several sources, the CIA simply does not care about ISIS. Using an excuse that ISIS is an army rather than a terrorist organization, they have punted the job to Army special operations-the men of Special Forces and Delta Force.
In Syria, the overwhelming priority for the CIA is what some CTC officers call Director John Brennan’s baby: the removal of the Assad regime.
Ousting the Alawite government of Bashar al-Assad had been a long-term strategic goal of the United States. The summary of a 2006 diplomatic cable authored by William Roebuck, the chargé d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Damascus, reads:
We believe Bashar’s [Assad] weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as the conflict between economic reform steps (however limited) and entrenched, corrupt forces, the Kurdish question, and the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists. This cable summarizes our assessment of these vulnerabilities and suggests that there may be actions, statements, and signals that the USG can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising.
The cable goes on, outlining how the United States government should exploit fissures between Syria and Iran. The Iranians have long used Syria as a logistics and command hub for Hezbollah operations. Exploiting fears of Shia meddling in Sunni affairs was one way that America could create a fracture in the alliance.
In June of 2007, the Bush White House debated military action against a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor. Vice President Dick Cheney pushed hard for military intervention. “I again made the case for U.S. military action against the reactor,” Cheney wrote. “But I was a lone voice. After I finished, the president asked, ‘Does anyone here agree with the vice president?’ Not a single hand went up around the room.” Stung badly by faulty intelligence suggesting that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, President Bush opted for a diplomatic option.
During this timeframe, American special operations soldiers assigned to Task Force Orange were deployed to Syria under commercial cover. However, they targeted foreign fighters flowing into Iraq to fight coalition soldiers rather than fixate on the Assad regime. “The missions enabled JSOC to build a detailed picture of the network of jihadis from Aleppo and Damascus airports through the Syrian section of the Euphrates River Valley until they crossed into Iraq near Al Qaim,” Sean Naylor wrote.
Meanwhile, State Department cables reveal that the U.S. government was actively searching for ways to undermine the Syrian government, and potentially remove Assad from power. Another 2006 cable reads, “Finding ways to publicly call into question Bashar’s reform efforts-pointing, for example to the use of reform to disguise cronyism-would embarrass Bashar and undercut these efforts to shore up his legitimacy.”
Roebuck points out another interesting vulnerability to the regime, one that would come into play in full effect a decade later. He wrote that the Kurds are “the most organized and daring political opposition and civil society groups are among the ethnic minority Kurds, concentrated in Syria’s northeast, as well as in communities in Damascus and Aleppo. This group has been willing to protest violently in its home territory when others would dare not.” Also revealed in the cables was that the United States was covertly financing Assad’s political opponents.
Robert Ford and a military attache in Syria.
The U.S. ambassador to Syria from 2010 to 2014 was Robert Ford, who traveled around Syria meeting with opposition leaders prior to the outbreak of civil war. This was back when Syria was simply next on the list of Arab Spring countries and protesters in Syria were demanding liberalization from the Assad regime. Ford was an outspoken critic of the regime, and criticized the Obama administration in 2014, saying that the United States had not put enough pressure on Assad. Advocating the arming of so-called moderate rebels, Ford went on to say, “We have to think about a way to escalate pressure.”
Damascus X, Syrian Task Force, and CTC/SI
In 2012, with the Syrian Civil War already well underway, CIA Case Officer Doug Laux was dispatched to the Middle East in order to meet with allied nations and the leadership of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA). The mission was to “achieve the desired result of removing President Bashar al-Assad from power,” as Laux wrote in a memo. “Leadership on the seventh floor [of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia] and the White House had made it clear from the beginning that the goal of our task force was to find ways to remove President Assad from office,” the former CIA officer wrote in his memoir. Large sections of Laux’s book are blacked out by CIA censors, but what we do know is that American-made TOW anti-tank weapons began showing up in offensives waged by the FSA in Syria.
“The Syria covert action program is [CIA Director John] Brennan’s baby,” a former CIA officer told SOFREP. Weapons were provided to the FSA by the CIA under US Code Title 50, which authorizes the CIA to conduct covert operations, including the supply of arms to foreign proxy forces, after receiving permission from the White House via a presidential finding. In 2014, it became perfectly clear that U.S.-supplied TOW missile launchers had fallen into the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria.
The FSA made for a viable partner force for the CIA on the surface, as they were anti-regime, ostensibly having the same goal as the seventh floor at Langley. In December of 2014, al-Nusra used the American-made TOW missiles to route another anti-regime CIA proxy force called the Syrian Revolutionary Front from several bases in Idlib province. The province is now the de facto caliphate of al-Nusra. That Nusra captured TOW missiles from the now-defunct Syrian Revolutionary Front is unsurprising, but that the same anti-tank weapons supplied to the FSA ended up in Nusra hands is even less surprising when one understands the internal dynamics of the Syrian conflict.
Distinguishing between the FSA and al-Nusra is impossible, because they are virtually the same organization. As early as 2013, FSA commanders were defecting with their entire units to join al-Nusra. There, they still retain the FSA monicker, but it is merely for show, to give the appearance of secularism so they can maintain access to weaponry provided by the CIA and Saudi intelligence services. The reality is that the FSA is little more than a cover for the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra.
The Syrian Civil War has spun into a complex conflict with over 100 armed groups fighting for territory, each group with constantly shifting alliances, while foreign powers like Russia, the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and others meddle in Syria’s internal affairs. The armed groups go by different names, but in reality, the names of these groups are of little relevance. The situation in Syria resembles a form of full-auto capitalism present in the United States during the dot com economic boom. Commanders on the ground will assemble ad hoc groups almost like LLCs or place their group under the banner of another, each militia having a different task organization and operational control from one battle to the next.
The fact that the FSA simply passed American-made weaponry off to al-Nusra is also unsurprising considering that the CIA’s vetting process of militias in Syria is lackluster, consisting of little more than running traces in old databases. These traces rely on knowing the individuals’ real names in the first place, and assume that they were even fighting-age males when the data was collected by CTC years prior. CTC/SI, as with CTC/Iraq before it, was a “stepchild to Big Mark [name changed], the former director of CTC, and that neglect had consequences, especially when a terrorist group took over multiple countries,” a former CIA officer elaborated.
Brennan was the one who breathed life into the Syrian Task Force, which was able to draw upon resources from CTC/SI. “John Brennan loved that regime-change bullshit,” a former CIA officer commented. CTC/SI focuses on counter-terrorism, while the Syrian Task Force conducts espionage, influence operations, and paramilitary activities in conjunction with the Special Activities Division (SAD) as needed in pursuit of regime change, including the covert arming of militia groups inside Syria.
The CIA’s Ground Branch paramilitary component was being treated like a bunch of toddlers in Syria, with case officers acting as if they were just hired help. Composed of former special operations personnel, Ground Branch has been very active in combat while working alongside Afghan commandos assigned to that country’s NDS intelligence service, but in Jordan, they were not trusted to do anything more than observe and report. They could ask rebel leaders who came across the border how things were going, but not much else.
The reality is that Ground Branch has always been regarded as a backwater in the CIA, a place where careers go to die, at least until the War on Terror kicked off and they were running and gunning in Afghanistan. Prior to 9/11, there were not even a dozen personnel assigned to the unit.
John Brennan’s Syrian Task Force running covert action programs that deliver arms to al-Nusra fronts like the FSA is especially ironic considering a recent interview with the CIA director in which he was asked about the recent public split between al-Nusra and al-Qaeda. He stated, “I think they recognized that that moniker is a liability. And I do not believe that that name change is going to really change the focus of this organization, which has been primarily to carry out offenses against pro-regime forces.” Brennan then acknowledged the serious threat that al-Nusra poses, including possibly conducting terrorist operations in the West. “I am concerned that there still remains a very worrisome element of Jabhat al-Nusra that will be wrapped maybe in this new name but will still have external plotting as its purpose,” Brennan said. “So I do think it’s purely a change of name but not really a change in orientation, purpose, agenda, and objectives.”
Meanwhile, Damascus X, the CIA station in exile now based in Amman, Jordan, deploys case officers who collect human intelligence (HUMINT) and also pursues the anti-regime policy. With CTC/SI, the Syrian Task Force, and Damascus X all working to similar ends, but with different chains of command, the result is bureaucratic infighting, which is only exacerbated by meddling from Langley and the White House.
“There was a stifling of ops, because of personalities, and then it was general madness there with too many people who never handled assets. Also, just ignorance, like thinking ISIS wouldn’t use its access to Europe,” a former CIA officer said.