Select opposition fighters in Syria are being fed information from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to enhance their fight against government troops, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
The newspaper said, citing unnamed current and former U.S. officials, that the new CIA effort reflected a change in the administration's approach that aims to strengthen secular rebel fighters.
The CIA has sent officers to Turkey to help vet rebels who receive arms shipments from Gulf allies, the report said.
But administration officials cited concerns about some weapons going to Islamists, the paper noted.
In Iraq, the CIA has been directed by the White House to work with elite counterterrorism units to help the Iraqis counter the flow of al Qaeda-linked fighters across the border with Syria, The Journal said.
According to the report, the West favors fighters aligned with the Free Syrian Army, which supports the Syrian Opposition Coalition political group.
Syrian opposition commanders said the CIA had been working with British, French and Jordanian intelligence services to train rebels in the use of various kinds of weapons, the paper said.
The move comes as the al Nusra Front, the main al Qaeda-linked group operating in Syria, is deepening its ties to the terrorist organization's central leadership in Pakistan, The Journal said.
The new aid to rebels doesn't change the U.S. decision against taking direct military action, the paper noted.
Last week, reports on the CIA’s connection to the Syria conflict also arose, when the Los Angeles Times suggested that information on Islamic radicals in Syria for a possible lethal U.S. drone strikes against them, is being collected by the CIA.
“The Counterterrorism Center, which runs the CIA’s covert drone killing program in Pakistan and Yemen, recently shifted several targeting officers to improve intelligence collection on militants in Syria who could pose a terrorist threat,” the report stated, citing the U.S. officials.