The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has been aiding the opposition in Syria by providing it with information that could be used against the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The actionable intelligence is being supplied to small, well-vetted rebel units, current and former U.S. officials told the WSJ.
According to the report, the U.S. has initiated the effort in order to strengthen secular forces in the country amid concerns that Assad's fall could empower Islamist extremists – including Al-Qaida – in the country.
The expanded CIA operation is part of a wider effort by Western agencies to train the Syrian opposition in weapon use, urban combat and counterintelligence.
While the move signals an increase in U.S. involvement in Syria's two-year conflict, the new aid doesn't change the Obama administration's decision against launching direct military intervention.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who is visiting the Middle East, stressed yet again on Friday that arming rebels could further aggravate the civil war in Syria. But he also voiced concern about the rise of radical groups there.
"I am very concerned about Syria becoming an enclave for extremism because extremists thrive in chaos, they thrive in failed states, they thrive in power vacuums," Obama told reporters in Amman, Jordan, where he arrived after concluding his trip to Israel.
The West favors rebels aligned with the Free Syrian Army, which supports the Syrian Opposition Coalition political group.
According to the WSJ, among other U.S. activities on the margins of the conflict, the Pentagon is helping train Jordanian forces to counter the threat posed by Syria's chemical weapons.
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