Birds fly in front of Turkish-backed Syrian rebels walking in the northwestern border town of al-Bab on February 23, 2017 after they fully recaptured the town from Daesh. AFP / Nazeer al-Khatib
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From special forces officer to brigade-hopping rebel, Abu Jaafar has seen Syria's uprising from all angles. But after years of setbacks, culminating in cuts to U.S. support, he feels disillusioned. The 31-year-old spent three years in a Syrian prison and once counted himself among his U.S. trainers' most admired fighters. President Donald Trump's administration last month announced it was ending Washington's four-year program to back rebels.Abu Jaafar was released on June 14, 2014, after a string of amnesties cut his sentence to three years.Within a week, he joined the rebel Hazm Movement, at a time when the opposition still controlled swaths of Syria, including half of second city Aleppo. In September 2014, Abu Jaafar left Hazm as it lost territory and weapons to Al-Qaeda before folding the following year.In early 2016, Abu Jaafar was recruited by the Tajamu Fastaqem Kama Umert, a rebel faction in Aleppo.The move meant Abu Jaafar was now fighting Daesh instead of the army – a shift already months in the making in Washington.
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