Mainstream Media Confirm: U.S. Is Aiding Syrian Rebels
Has the White House been misleading the public by repeatedly denying it was coordinating arms shipments to the rebels in Syria, insurgents known to consist in large part of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups?
Top U.S. officials and former officials, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have implied in congressional testimony that they didn’t know about any U.S. involvement in procuring weapons for the rebels. Now, a starkly different picture is emerging, one that threatens the longstanding White House narrative that claims the Obama administration has only supplied nonlethal aid to the rebels.
Confirming this column’s exclusive reporting for over a year, The New York Times last week reported that since early 2012, the CIA has been aiding Arab governments and Turkey in obtaining and shipping weapons to the Syrian rebels. This week, Reuters also reported the U.S. is not only coordinating arms shipments but also training Syrian rebels.
While the Times report claims most of the weapons shipments facilitated by the CIA began after the latest presidential election, Middle Eastern security officials speaking to this reporter have said U.S.-aided weapons shipments go back more than a year, escalating before the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi. The aid, the sources stated, included weapons shipments and was being coordinated with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
Days after the Benghazi attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, this reporter broke the story that Stevens himself played a central role in recruiting jihadists to fight Assad’s regime in Syria, according to Egyptian and other Middle Eastern security officials.
More Benghazi Questions
As media reports present evidence that the U.S. has played a central role in arming Syrian rebels, new questions now emerge about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s involvement in the controversial scheme.
The questions also prompt a second look at the perplexing security decisions made by Clinton and other top Obama administration officials the night of the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on American facilities in Benghazi. One of those key decisions reportedly delayed an investigative FBI team from arriving at the Benghazi site for 24 days. The site was widely reported to have contained classified documents.
Last month, The New York Times described Clinton as one of the driving forces advocating a plan to arm the Syrian rebels. At the time, the newspaper quoted White House officials stating they rejected the plan, which was also proposed by then-CIA Director David Petraeus.
A comparison of the Clinton plan to arms the rebels, as first reported by the Times, and the new Times report of American-aided shipments to the rebels since last year makes clear the Clinton plan was apparently put into action.
The New York Times report has prompted major questions about the role Clinton played in the U.S. response to the Benghazi attacks – assaults against the very facilities where the arms-to-rebels scheme was allegedly being coordinated. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor confirmed to Fox News in November that Clinton herself worked on the immediate U.S. response to Benghazi.
One of the key decisions by Clinton’s State Department that has perplexed many security experts was the determination not to deploy an interagency rapid response unit designed to respond to terrorist attacks known as a Foreign Emergency Support Team, or FEST. FEST teams previously deployed immediately after Al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000. But they were not used for Benghazi, confounding insiders speaking to the news media
Counterterrorism officials told Fox News in November that the FEST teams could have helped the FBI gain access to the site in Benghazi faster. It ultimately took the FBI 24 days. The site reportedly contained a large volume of classified documents related to the activities of the Benghazi facilities.
Further, during the night of the attack, top counter terror officials felt out of the loop, according to e-mails shared with both Fox News and CBS News in November. Counterterrorism sources and internal emails reviewed by CBS News expressed frustration that key responders were ready to deploy but were not called upon to help in the attack.
Besides strangely not deploying FEST, the Counterterrorism Security Group, or CSG, was never asked to meet the night of the attack or in subsequent days, according to two separate counterterrorism officials, as first reported by CBS News.