Secret CIA Program in Syria Exposed After Murder of 3 Green Berets in Jordan

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Just before Obama left office last year, three Green Berets, assisting the CIA in its secret ‘Timber Sycamore’ training program for Syrian rebels, were killed in a hail of gunfire by a Jordanian soldier as they approached the joint US-Jordan military base.  The attack was caught on surveillance video but was suppressed to prevent the CIA program from exposure.  One month before the attack, a Green Beret associated with the CIA’s covert operations blew the whistle and leaked details of the CIA’s use of jihadists to overthrow Syrian President Assad. The report said that the CIA was interested only in toppling Assad and allowed ISIS to grow.  -GEG

“The Jordanian government had a strong incentive to gloss over the murders of the three Green Berets.  Likewise, the CIA was scared of potential blowback and the exposing of their covert program,” says investigative journalist Jack Murphy, himself an Army special forces veteran.

A premeditated green-on-blue attack in Jordan outside of King Faisal Air Base (at al-Jafr in Southern Jordan) late last year resulted in the deaths of three elite US Green Berets in what the media initially dubbed a mere unfortunate gate incident and what the Jordanian government dismissed as a “a tragic accident devoid of any terrorist motives”. But the whole event and subsequent attempts at cover-up just as Obama was leaving office enraged both the families of the slain and the US special forces community; and it further threatened to blow wide open the CIA’s illegal Syrian regime change operation, called Timber Sycamore, which involved American special ops soldiers being tasked with training so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels in Jordan and Turkey as part of an inter-agency program.

As details of the court case involving the shooter continue to emerge this week, the media continues to misreport the true nature of the what the US special forces personnel were doing in Jordan in the first place, and how a CIA secret program put them at risk.

On Monday (July 17) a Jordanian military court sentenced the attacker, a Jordanian soldier named Marik al-Tuwayha, to life in prison with hard labor for the premeditated murder of Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27, of Kirksville, Missouri; Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe, 30, of Tucson, Arizona; and Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty, 27, of Kerrville, Texas. In Jordan a “life sentence” can mean the possibility of being set free after serving 20 years for good behavior.

Last November the three Green Berets were entering King Faisal Air Base assigned as part of the CIA’s ‘Timber Sycamore’ training. According to court testimony as well as evidence collected by the Pentagon, a soldier in the US-allied Jordanian Army opened fire as the Green Berets’ convoy was stopped in front of the base. The Jordanian guard fired for six minutes, reloading multiple rifle magazines. The Jordanian government and media attempted to paint a picture that the approaching US convoy charged the gate and neglected protocol, and that the guard thought he was acting in self defense (a claim later retracted by Jordan). But initially suppressed surveillance footage captured the entire event, and confirms a methodical and willed attack as the Americans yelled in English and in Arabic, “We’re Americans! We’re friendly!” (the Jordanian military court refused to show the footage). As Foreign Affairs reported, “they were hunted down and executed at close range.” A fourth US soldier was able to wound the shooter, bringing the attack to an end.


Crime scene photo evidence by the Army’s official 15-6 investigation

Monday’s verdict is being widely reported as “case closed” concerning the attack even as the victims’ families and active special forces personnel themselves continue to ask questions. While family members consider the verdict a “good first step,” they have all along pointed to deeper issues regarding their sons’ presence in Jordan and the policies that sent them there. Official family statements from a March press conference included the following:

Based on their behavior, the Jordanians apparently believe that our sons were expendable…

 

Finally, our government gives Jordan more than a billion dollars each year in foreign aid. The American public is told that the government of Jordan is our ‘ally.’ …As for the foreign aid for Jordan, I say, ‘No more.’ Enough is enough.

In a remarkably candid 2014 speech at Harvard, then Vice President Joe Biden admitted and emphasized Jordan’s role among “our allies” in funding and supporting the rise of ISIS.

After Trump took office Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe’s father published a letter asking the new US president to “reconsider our relationship and aide to an ally who murders our soldiers and then lies about it.”

Perhaps more significant is that the whole episode threatened to expose never before known details of the ground level nuts and bolts of how the CIA’s program to destabilize and topple the Syrian government worked. While the program began to be the subject of vague references in major US media in 2013, specific names and locations of military units, persons, and places involved had never been known or understood until just before and after the tragic attack in Jordan. Even as of 2014, as reports and rumors of CIA training camps in Jordan’s vast deserts were abundant, and as some enterprising journalists literally stumbled around Jordan looking for the whereabouts, locations and details remained a complete mystery.

Training Jihadists for Syria Operations: Whistleblowers Speak

One month before the attack at King Faisal Air Base, a Green Beret associated with covert operations in Syria spoke out to a prominent military news site called SOFREP, blowing the whistle on details surrounding the CIA’s use of jihadists to overthrow Assad:

“Nobody believes in it. You’re like, ‘F–k this.’ Everyone on the ground knows they are jihadis. No one on the ground believes in this mission or this effort, and they know they are just training the next generation of jihadis, so they are sabotaging it by saying, ‘F–k it, who cares?’

The lengthy whistleblower report (member restricted) circulated widely among special forces veterans and professional analysts, but never reached a broader public audience and was ignored in mainstream press as it sat behind a members only access site founded by a well-known Navy Seal for the purpose of ‘insider’ news and discussion impacting the special forces community. The report revealed that American Syrian rebel trainers (in Jordan and elsewhere) belonging to the Army’s 5th Special Forces Group had been tasked with assisting a CIA covert mission, but they knew full well that they were being ordered by the Obama administration to train jihadists and ISIS sympathizers in the push to topple the Syrian government. They warned blowback was coming as the CIA was violating America’s own counter-terror laws.

Media figures like CNN’s Clarissa Ward immediately attacked the report (Ward herself is a notorious regime change apologist), but SOFREP’s reputation is as one of the few outlets in the world with direct access to covert and special operatives on the ground in remote places. Its two co-founders appear semi-regularly on Fox News and other outlets to discuss their investigative stories. Indeed SOFREP’s team of journalists is made up almost entirely of former career intelligence and military operatives. The site’s editor-in-chief, Jack Murphy, joined a group of high profile journalists last year which sat in a closed door interview with Syrian President Assad – among them were the New York Times regional bureau chief, a journalist from The New Yorker, and analysts from The Century Foundation.

SOFREP’s bombshell report was the result of months, and even perhaps years of a firestorm of controversy within military and intelligence ranks. Some members of the 5th Special Forces Group felt as if they were being used as pawns (“de facto expendable assets” as the SOFREP investigation describes it) by CIA bureaucracy in a legally and constitutionally questionable scheme that involved the US actively teaming up with jihadists to fight in Syria. While a general Western policy of using Islamic terrorism to pressure the Assad government has not been a secret in recent years, especially since the 2012 DIA ‘salafist principality’ memo came to light, details of how it all worked and how its overseers attempted to justify training jihadists have remained unknown.


Screenshot of Syrian rebel video: unpacking US ordinance during training.

Below are excerpts broken into sections from SOFREP’s multi-part investigation (member restricted) into the joint CIA/Army Special Forces (“inter-agency”) program. The total investigative series includes some 30+ printed pages of program history and details. It is unclear to what extent various elements of the program remained in place after Trump took office.

1) The three slain Green Berets were working under a program in which the CIA refused to properly vet trainees and allies:

The slaying of three Green Berets comes after years of the Special Forces soldiers assigned to the CIA’s Timber Sycamore program complaining that the moderate rebels they had been sent to train were actually ISIS and al-Nusra infiltrators. The vetting that the CIA does of the rebels is dubious at best, consisting of bio-metric trace searches in old databases which are far from comprehensive. The Special Forces soldiers have repeatedly brought up the fact that the rebels they have to train have also failed their polygraphs and display allegiances to Islamists during interviews. Such concerns have also been expressed by the CIA’s para-military component, called Ground Branch, which have also gone ignored.

*****

The shooter was an [Jordanian] Air Force soldier who came from the city of Ma’an, a hotbed of Islamic extremism.  Ma’an is known to be a city openly sympathetic to the Islamic State, and the black flag of ISIS has been flown over the city despite crackdowns by Jordanian Special Operations troops.

*****

As of now, three 5th Group members killed outside a CIA base in Jordan by a Jihadist sympathizer is not enough to get Congress asking questions about what is really going on with these programs.

*****

CIA officers, particularly the station chief in Turkey, are known to routinely blow off the concerns of the Special Forces sergeants. The CIA has a careerist culture in which numbers have to be met in order for their officers to be eligible for promotion, therefore the mission takes second place to checking tick marks on a ledger. Special Forces trainers complain that they were taking on too many rebels for them to control, and that many were actually terrorists.  Requests from the Green Berets for a security element from the Ranger Regiment to guard the rebels were dismissed.  The CIA blew off any and all concerns that the Green Berets had leading many of the trainers to actively sabotage the programs by passively refusing to train rebels that they know are actually terrorists. Some senior CIA staffers stayed away from the mission entirely, believing that the eventual blowback would be enough to destroy their careers.

*****

“A good 95 percent of them were either working in terrorist organizations or were sympathetic to them,” a Green Beret associated with the program said, adding, “A good majority of them admitted that they had no issues with ISIS and that their issue was with the Kurds and the Syrian regime.” Like the militias being trained in Jordan, the rebels being trained in Turkey were not ready for combat. “It is not in their blood to be fighters. A large majority of them are criminals,” a Green Beret said. Many were foreign fighters, some from Iraq. One even turned out to be a Lebanese drug smuggler.

 

“The majority of these guys have been coached on what to say at the training site and give cookie-cutter answers,” the Special Forces soldier told SOFREP. They would portray themselves as being secular, but the Americans could tell who the hardliners were because they didn’t smoke (jihadis follow Wahhabi Islam, which does not permit it) and looked at the Green Berets with disdain.

*****

Distinguishing between the FSA and al-Nusra is impossible, because they are virtually the same organization. As early as 2013, FSA commanders were defecting with their entire units to join al-Nusra. There, they still retain the FSA monicker, but it is merely for show, to give the appearance of secularism so they can maintain access to weaponry provided by the CIA and Saudi intelligence services. The reality is that the FSA is little more than a cover for the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra.

2) The CIA merely watched ISIS grow as its top priority had always been regime change in Syria:

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