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What did the CIA's covert assistance program for Syrian rebels accomplish? Bizarrely, the biggest consequence may be that it helped trigger the Russian military intervention in 2015 that rescued President Bashar Assad – achieving the opposite of what the program intended.Syria adds another chapter to the star-crossed history of CIA paramilitary action. These efforts begin with the worthy objective of giving presidents policy options short of all-out war. The rise and fall of the Syria covert action conveys some useful lessons about this most delicate weapon in America's arsenal.CIA analysts began to speak that summer about a "catastrophic success" – where the rebels would topple Assad without creating a strong, moderate government.What Trump did in ending the CIA program was arguably just recognizing that ground truth.What could the U.S. have done to provide a different outcome? Here are some thoughts gathered from U.S. and Syrian officials who have followed the CIA program closely.
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