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US ends CIA arms support for Syria rebels

The Trump administration has halted the CIA's covert program to equip and train certain rebel groups fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, two US officials say, a move sought by Assad ally Russia.
The US decision, one official said on Wednesday, was part of an effort by the administration to improve relations with Russia, which along with Iranian-supported groups has largely succeeded in preserving Assad's government in the six-year civil war.
The CIA program began in 2013 as part of efforts by the Obama administration to overthrow Assad but produced little success, said the officials, who are familiar with the program.
The Washington Post was first to report the program's suspension on Wednesday.
The White House and CIA declined to comment.
The decision was made before Trump's July 7 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Germany.
One of the officials said the US was not making a major concession, given Assad's grip on power "but it's a signal to Putin that the administration wants to improve ties to Russia".
Trump is under intense scrutiny by Congress and a special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump's campaign had ties to the activity.
A downside of the CIA program, one of the officials said, was some armed and trained rebels defected to Islamic State and other radical groups, and some members of the previous administration favoured abandoning the program.
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