Despite the conclusions of a secret CIA study which found that arming rebels hardly ever results in toppling governments, the Obama administration plunged ahead toward arming the Syrian rebels. The New York Times reported October 14 that the Obama administration commissioned a study on the feasibility of arming Syrian rebels in 2012 that prognosticated failure, and quite possibly, disaster.
The story by New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti reported that:
One of the things Obama wanted to know was: “Did this ever work?” said one former senior administration official who participated in the debate and spoke anonymously because he was discussing a classified report. The CIA report, he said, “was pretty dour in its conclusions.”
One exception, the report found, was when the C.I.A. helped arm and train mujahedeen rebels fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan during the 1980s, an operation that slowly bled the Soviet war effort and led to a full military withdrawal in 1989…. But the Afghan-Soviet war was also seen as a cautionary tale. Some of the battle-hardened mujahedeen fighters later formed the core of Al Qaeda and used Afghanistan as a base to plan the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Faced with such a lone “success” story, some may find it difficult to fathom why an administration that has professed concerned with keeping Americans safe would engage in such a policy against a state which — though brutal — has not threatened U.S. territory or American citizens. President Obama cannot claim ignorance of the CIA study, as he made public mention of it in a January 2014 interview with the New Yorker magazine, stating:
Very early in this process, I actually asked the C.I.A. to analyze examples of America financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much. We have looked at this from every angle. And the truth is that the challenge there has been, and continues to be … in that environment, our best chance of seeing a decent outcome at this point is to work the state actors who have invested so much in keeping Assad in power — mainly the Iranians and the Russians — as well as working with those who have been financing the opposition to make sure that they’re not creating the kind of extremist force that we saw emerge out of Afghanistan when we were financing the mujahideen.