Jordan denies reports on US secretly training Syrian rebels

[22-06-2013 01:38 AM]

Ammon News - AMMONNEWS - Jordan on Friday denied information revealed in media reports that the CIA and US military have been secretly training Syrian rebels inside Jordanian territories.

The Los Angeles Times and other media outlets on Friday reported that CIA operatives and US special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons since late last year, months before President Obama approved plans to begin directly arming the rebels, with training reportedly taken place in Jordan and Turkey.

Jordan's government spokesperson Mohammad Momani denied the reports on Friday, saying that the information in the LA Times report is "untrue."

Momani, who is also the State Minister of Media Affairs stressed "the importance of dismissing what the media reports from unnamed sources."

"We do not deal with unnamed sources," Momani told Ammon News late Friday night.

The Los Angeles Times report on Friday alleged that the covert US training to Syrian rebels began last November at a new American base in the desert in southwest Jordan, with hundreds of rebels receiving courses and training, according to an unnamed rebel commander in the southern Syrian province of Dara.

The CIA and White House officials declined to comment on the secret training programs, the LA Times reported, adding that other U.S. officials confirmed the training, but disputed some of the specific details provided by rebel commanders.

The U.S.-based newspaper report, however, backed the information on secret training with statements from Brig. Gen. Yahya Bittar, who defected as a fighter pilot from Assad’s air force last year and is now head of intelligence for the Free Syrian Army, who said that training for the last month or so has taken place in Jordan.

The training, conducted by American, Jordanian and French operatives, involves rockets and anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry, he said.

Between 80 and 100 rebels from all over Syria have gone through the courses in the last month, he said, but training is continuing. Graduates are sent back across the border to rejoin the battle, the LA Times report added.

Meanwhile, the United States has left about 700 combat-equipped troops in Jordan after a training exercise there, at the request of the Jordanian government, President Barack Obama said on Friday.

With both countries keeping a wary eye on the civil war in Syria, Obama said in a letter to Congress that 700 of the troops deployed to Jordan as part of a training exercise will remain behind, Reuters reported.

The exercise ended on Thursday. They will remain until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed, Obama said.

"This detachment that participated in the exercise and remained in Jordan includes Patriot missile systems, fighter aircraft, and related support, command, control, and communications personnel and systems," Obama said.

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